CAR T-Cell Benefit in Lenalidomide-Refractory Myeloma

Neil Osterweil

June 06, 2023

CHICAGO — Lenalidomide (Revlimid) is a vital component of early therapy and maintenance for patients with multiple myeloma, but patients in first relapse who have disease that is refractory to lenalidomide have few good options for subsequent lines of therapy and a generally poor prognosis.

New results show that such patients benefit from treatment with the chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T) construct ciltacabtagene autoleucel (cilta-cel) (Carvykti).

The finding comes from the phase 3 CARTITUDE-4 trial, which was reported here at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2023 annual meeting and was simultaneously published online in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients with lenalidomide-refractory multiple myeloma who received a single infusion of ciltacabtagene autoleucel demonstrated a 74% reduction in the risk for disease progression or death compared with patients who received the standard of care.

The hazard ratio for death or progression with cilta-cel was 0.26 (P < .001), which "is the best hazard ratio ever reported in this patient population in a randomized clinical setting," said principal investigator Binod Dhakal, MD, from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dhakal reported data from the first analysis of the trial. At a median follow-up of 15.9 months, median progression-free survival (PFS), the primary endpoint, had not been reached among 208 patients who received cilta-cel; PFS was 11.8 months for the 211 patients assigned to receive standard of care, which consisted of the physician's choice of either pomalidomide, bortezomib, and dexamethasone (PVd), or daratumumab, pomalidomide, and dexamethasone (DPd).

Twelve-month PFS rates were 75.9% and 48.6%, respectively, and both the overall response rate (ORR) and the complete response (CR) rate were higher with the CAR T construct than with the standard of care (ORR, 84.6% vs. 67.3%; CR rates, 73.1% and 21.8%, respectively).

"My perspective on Dr Dakhal and colleague's data is that myeloma treatment should be revisited in the light of this," commented invited discussant Asher Chanan-Khan, MD, from the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

"Early CAR Ts demonstrating efficacy and safety and prior lines of treatment impact survival from CAR T in myeloma. In lymphoma, CAR T is almost replacing, if not already, autotransplant. Can this also be true for multiple myeloma?," he asked.

Chanan-Khan noted that there are at least four ongoing trials with CAR T targeting either the B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) alone or in combination with an anti-CD19 CAR T, immune checkpoint inhibitors, or with bortezomib, lenalidomide, and dexamethasone.

Also commenting on the new results, ASCO Expert Oreofe Odejide, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said in a statement: "Lenalidomide has become a foundation of care for people with myeloma, but as its use has expanded, so has the number of patients whose disease will no longer respond to the treatment. Ciltacabtagene autoleucel has not only shown that it delivers remarkably effective outcomes compared to patients' current options, but also that it can be used safely earlier in the treatment phase."

Already Approved for Refractory Myeloma

Cilta-cel is a second-generation CAR T that contains two single-domain antibodies that target BCMA. This target was first described in myeloma in 2004 as a mechanism for the growth and survival of malignant plasma cells.

The product is already approved for use in myeloma; it was approved in March 2022 by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with refractory/relapsed multiple myeloma who have already tried four or more therapies. That approval was based on results from phase 1b/2 CARTITUDE-1 trial, which, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News, showed that early and deep responses with cilta-cel proved to be durable.

Final results of CARTITUDE-1, reported in a scientific poster at ASCO 2023, showed that almost half of patients (47.5%) who were treated with cilta-cel were free of disease progression at 3 years, and 59.8% had sustained, complete responses. In addition, the median PFS was longer than for any previously reported therapy for heavily pretreated patients with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma, the authors said.


For the CARTITUDE-4 trial, the investigators enrolled patients aged 18 years or older with lenalidomide-refractory multiple myeloma who had experienced relapse after one to three prior lines of therapy that included a prosteasome inhibitor and immunomodulator. After stratification by the choice of PVd or DPd, Multiple Myeloma International Staging System, and number of prior lines of therapy, patients were randomly assigned to receive either cilta-cel or one of the two standard-of-care regimens previously described.

Patients assigned to cilta-cel received one or more cycles of either PVd or DPd as bridging therapy during the period from apheresis to infusion of the CAR T cells.

As already noted, cilta-cel showed superior PFS and response rates and was associated with a significantly higher rate of minimal residual disease (MRD) negativity compared with standard of care in the intention-to-treat population: 60.6% vs 15.6%, which translates into an odds ratio for achieving MRD negativity with CAR T of 8.7 (P < .0001). Among the subset of patients evaluable for MRD, the respective rates were 87.5% and 32.7%.

Overall survival data were not mature at the time of presentation. In all, 39 patients in the cilta-cel arm and 47 in the standard-of-care arm died during the study.

Grade 3 or 4 adverse events occurred in 97% of patients who received cilta-cel and in 94% of those who received standard-of-care therapies. In the cilta-cel arm, 76.1% of patients had cytokine release syndrome (CRS), although only 1.1% of cases were of grade 3 or 4 in severity, and there were no CRS-associated deaths. Eight patients in this arm had immune effector cell–associated neurotoxicity syndrome, all of grade 1 or 2. One patient had grade 1 movement and neurocognitive symptoms, 16 had grade 2 or 3 cranial nerve palsy, and five patients had CAR T–related peripheral neuropathy of grade 1, 2, or 3.

The investigators plan to follow patients to determine the long-term effects of ciltacabtagene autoleucel and are currently performing analyses of health-related quality of life, subgroups, and biomarkers.

The study was funded by Janssen and Legend Biotech, which market ciltacabtagene autoleucel. Dhakal disclosed consulting, speaker's bureau participation, and, institutional research funding from Janssen and others. Several co-authors are employees of the study funders. Chanan-Khan's relevant financial information was not available. Odejide reported no relevant financial relationships.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2023: Abstract LBA106. Presented June 5, 2023.

N Eng J Med. Published online June 5, 2023. Abstract

Neil Osterweil, an award-winning medical journalist, is a long-standing and frequent contributor to Medscape.

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