When to Use Second-Line CAR T-cell Therapy for Relapsed/Refractory DLBCL

Gilles Salles, MD

Chief of Lymphoma Service

Steven A. Greenberg Chair

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New York, NY

Gilles Salles, MD

Chief of Lymphoma Service

Steven A. Greenberg Chair

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New York, NY

Targeted OncologyTM: How do the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines recommend treating patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) based on the outcomes of first-line therapy?

SALLES: [Looking at] the NCCN guidelines, for patients with the intention to proceed to autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT), second-line therapy is divided by complete responders with ASCT, partial responders [who] usually go to CAR [chimeric antigen receptor] T-cell therapy, and those with progressive disease who will go to salvage therapy or CAR T-cell therapy.1 Patients with relapsed disease within 12 months, or primary refractory disease, should envision CAR T-cell therapy and the nontransplant candidates will go to a couple of suggested regimens.

If we go back to those patients with the intention to treat with CAR T-cell therapy, we have to think of patients a little differently from [the way one is] used to thinking. We’re used to seeing patients [in terms of being] eligible or ineligible for ASCT. [Now,] for these [patient’s relapse] early, [we have to ask if they] are eligible for CAR T-cell therapy and decide who is more [optimal] for CAR T-cell therapy. That’s probably a good discussion [to have]. In this case, we have both axicabtagene ciloleucel [axi-cel; Yescarta] and lisocabtagene maraleucel [liso-cel; Breyanzi] available for patients.

At what point can CAR T-cell therapy be used for patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL?

Regarding their [FDA] approvals, axi-cel was approved for patients who are refractory to first-line therapy or relapse within 12 months of first-line chemoimmunotherapy.2 The way we all interpret that is 12 months from the end [of first-line therapy], though initially some of the trials [did otherwise]. Liso-cel has a slightly different label: refractory disease or first-line relapse within 12 months of first-line therapy, then there is an addendum which is based on the study: refractory disease to first-line chemoimmunotherapy or relapsed after first-line chemoimmunotherapy and not eligible for ASCT.3

For axi-cel, the ZUMA-7 trial [NCT03391466] was taking patients from the time of relapse, [performing] apheresis on the patient, bridging them with steroids but not with chemotherapy, which may make [a difference].

What were the efficacy outcomes of the phase 3 trials investigating second-line CAR T-cell therapy?

[There were] 3 trials [of CAR T-cell therapy for DLBCL], ZUMA-7, BELINDA [NCT03570892], and TRANSFORM [NCT03575351].4-6 Patients were in the range of 55 to 60 years of age [on these trials]. They had the same criteria of eligibility; all these patients [relapsed after] less than 12 months. In ZUMA-7, the only bridging therapy was steroids whereas BELINDA, the one with tisagenlecleucel [tisa-cel; Kymriah] and TRANSFORM with liso-cel were offering the possibility of 2 or 3 cycles of chemotherapy as bridging therapy.

Two-thirds to three-quarter of patients were refractory, [and approximately] 25% were relapsed [across these studies]. The median follow-up was quite different; [approximately] 2 years for ZUMA-7, 10 months for BELINDA, and 6 months at the time of publication of TRANSFORM. The complete response [CR] rate to CAR T-cell therapy in ZUMA-7 was 65%, and the CR rate with ASCT was 32%.4 With BELINDA there were no difference between the 2 groups, a CR of 28% [in each arm],5 and with TRANSFORM [the liso-cel had a] 66% CR rate which is identical to ZUMA-7 and 39% with ASCT.6

Two of the studies were positive, the third one is negative. If you want to know why is the third one was negative, is it a question of product, is it a question of trial design, is it a question of delays in manufacturing the product? I think there were many explanations raised. I personally think there was not one single explanation; it was a mixture of different explanations. Tisa-cel [is an effective] primary CAR T-cell therapy for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, so it’s a good [therapy], but in this DLBCL setting it may be inferior, and there are some data from a registry study coming from [France] suggesting that it is inferior to axi-cel.7

[For ZUMA-7, the PFS [progression-free survival] rate at 24 months was 46% for axi-cel versus 27% for ASCT.4 In BELINDA [PFS data were] not provided, [so PFS in both arms were] not reached,5 and [for TRANSFORM] we have a 12-month PFS rate of 50% vs 33%, so a highly significant difference for 2 [of these trials].6 So it’s a significant change for early relapse, and potentially for later [relapse].

REFERENCES

1. NCCN. Clinical practice guidelines in oncology. B-cell lymphomas, version 2.2023. Accessed March 23, 2023. bit.ly/3TEXEqA

2. FDA approves axicabtagene ciloleucel for second-line treatment of large B-cell lymphoma. News release. FDA. April 1, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2023. bit.ly/3ngfNPF

3. FDA approves lisocabtagene maraleucel for second-line treatment of large B-cell lymphoma. News release. FDA. June 24, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2023. bit.ly/3TBFcPE

4. Locke FL, Miklos DB, Jacobson CA, et al. Axicabtagene Ciloleucel as Second-Line Therapy for Large B-Cell Lymphoma. N Engl J Med. 2022;386(7):640-654. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2116133

5. Bishop MR, Dickinson M, Purtill D, et al. Second-Line Tisagenlecleucel or Standard Care in Aggressive B-Cell Lymphoma. N Engl J Med. 2022;386(7):629-639. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2116596

6. Kamdar M, Solomon SR, Arnason J, et al. Lisocabtagene maraleucel versus standard of care with salvage chemotherapy followed by autologous stem cell transplantation as second-line treatment in patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma (TRANSFORM): results from an interim analysis of an open-label, randomised, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2022;399(10343):2294-2308. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(22)00662-6

7. Bachy E, Le Gouill S, Di Blasi R, et al. A real-world comparison of tisagenlecleucel and axicabtagene ciloleucel CAR T cells in relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Nat Med. 2022;28(10):2145-2154. doi:10.1038/s41591-022-01969-y

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