Preserved Activity of CD20-Specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Expressing T Cells in the Presence of Rituximab.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cancer immunology research (2016)


CD20 is an attractive immunotherapy target for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and adoptive transfer of T cells genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting CD20 is a promising strategy. A theoretical limitation is that residual serum rituximab might block CAR binding to CD20 and thereby impede T cell-mediated anti-lymphoma responses. The activity of CD20 CAR-modified T cells in the presence of various concentrations of rituximab was tested in vitro and in vivo CAR-binding sites on CD20(+) tumor cells were blocked by rituximab in a dose-dependent fashion, although at 37°C blockade was incomplete at concentrations up to 200 μg/mL. T cells with CD20 CARs also exhibited modest dose-dependent reductions in cytokine secretion and cytotoxicity, but not proliferation, against lymphoma cell lines. At rituximab concentrations of 100 μg/mL, CAR T cells retained ≥50% of baseline activity against targets with high CD20 expression, but were more strongly inhibited when target cells expressed low CD20. In a murine xenograft model using a rituximab-refractory lymphoma cell line, rituximab did not impair CAR T-cell activity, and tumors were eradicated in >85% of mice. Clinical residual rituximab serum concentrations were measured in 103 lymphoma patients after rituximab therapy, with the median level found to be only 38 μg/mL (interquartile range, 19-72 μg/mL). Thus, despite modest functional impairment in vitro, the in vivo activity of CD20-targeted CAR T cells remains intact at clinically relevant levels of rituximab, making use of these T cells clinically feasible. Cancer Immunol Res; 4(6); 1-11. ©2016 AACR.