Dual CD19 and CD123 targeting prevents antigen-loss relapses after CD19-directed immunotherapies

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Potent CD19-directed immunotherapies, such as chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CART) and blinatumomab, have drastically changed the outcome of patients with relapsed/refractory B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). However, CD19-negative relapses have emerged as a major problem that is observed in approximately 30% of treated patients. Developing approaches to preventing and treating antigen-loss escapes would therefore represent a vertical advance in the field. Here, we found that in primary patient samples, the IL-3 receptor α chain CD123 was highly expressed on leukemia-initiating cells and CD19-negative blasts in bulk B-ALL at baseline and at relapse after CART19 administration. Using intravital imaging in an antigen-loss CD19-negative relapse xenograft model, we determined that CART123, but not CART19, recognized leukemic blasts, established protracted synapses, and eradicated CD19-negative leukemia, leading to prolonged survival. Furthermore, combining CART19 and CART123 prevented antigen-loss relapses in xenograft models. Finally, we devised a dual CAR-expressing construct that combined CD19- and CD123-mediated T cell activation and demonstrated that it provides superior in vivo activity against B-ALL compared with single-expressing CART or pooled combination CART. In conclusion, these findings indicate that targeting CD19 and CD123 on leukemic blasts represents an effective strategy for treating and preventing antigen-loss relapses occurring after CD19-directed therapies

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