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EBMT and JACIE recommendations for the management of CAR T-cell therapy

Feb 25, 2020

To date, two chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell-based therapies have been approved for a number of hematological malignancies in USA and Europe, axicabtagene ciloleuceland tisagenlecleucel. 1,2Despite the targeted nature of CAR T-cell therapies, life-threatening toxicities are still associated with their use. The main CAR T-cell-associated complications have been divided into three broad categories. Short-term, medium-term and long-term follow-up (LTFU) complications are referred to as those occurring between day(s) zero and 28, 28 and 100 or 100 plus after CAR T-cell infusion, respectively. The necessary precautions required for a successful CAR T-cell regimen are complex, and the need for routine guidelines has become apparent. 3

In December 2018, the Practice Harmonisation and Guidelines Subcommittee of the Chronic Malignancies Working Party (CMWP)of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT)proposed a project to define practical clinical recommendations on the management of adults and children undergoing autologous CAR T-cell therapy. The EBMT board accepted the proposal and Ibrahim Yakoub-Agha, Lille University Hospital, Lille, FR, presented a summary of the first EBMT and Joint Accreditation Committee of ISCT and EBMT (JACIE)recommendations at the 2 ndEuropean CAR T-Cell Meeting, Sitges, ES. 3,4The guidelines are based on survey responses from active CAR T centers and a literature review performed by the authors. They aim to provide recommendations for individuals involved in the administration of CAR T therapies and act as a useful resource for other stakeholders, such as pharmacists and health service administrators. We hereby provide a comprehensive summary of these published guidelines.

Patient eligibility

  • Eligibility ( Table 1) for CAR T-cell therapy must be decided at a multi-disciplinary team meeting in a designated CAR T center
Table 1.EBMT CAR T-cell therapy eligibility criteria

ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia; allo-HCT, allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation; BiTE, bispecific monoclonal antibodies; CAR, chimeric antigen receptor; CNS, central nervous system; DLBCL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; EBMT, European Society for Blood And Marrow Transplantation; ECOG, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group; GvHD, graft- versus-host disease; NHL, non-Hodgkin lymphoma; SPC, summary of product characteristics 

Characteristics EBMT recommendations Comment

Age limit

   

 NHL

No upper age limit

Decision should be based on physical condition rather than age

ALL

Follow SPC

Ability to collect sufficient cells by apheresis can be a limiting factor in infants and small children

ECOG performance Status >2 not recommended Prognosis may be better if the decline in performance status is due to active disease
History of malignancy Absence of history of malignancy other than carcinoma in situ unless disease-free and off therapy for at least three years  

Previous treatment

   

Prior allo-HCT

Not a contra-indication

Active GvHD is listed as a reason to delay treatment with axicabtagene ciloleucel or tisagenlecleucel

Prior CD19-directed therapy/anti-CD3 BiTE antibodies

Not a contra-indication

 


Previous CAR T-cell therapy

Not a contra-indication

Further CAR T therapy outside of clinical trials is to be avoided


Current systemic immunosuppressive treatment

Contra-indication

Intermittent topical, inhaled or intranasal corticosteroids are allowed

History of autoimmune disease Not recommended in active autoimmune disease resulting in end-organ injury or requiring systemic immunosuppression or systemic disease-modifying agents within the last two years Individualized risk-benefit assessment required
Existing or suspected fungal, bacterial, viral, or other infection Relative contra-indication; individualized risk-benefit assessment required Active infection should be controlled and on treatment prior to leukapheresis

Screening laboratory tests and imaging

  • The minimum required patient eligibility assessments are shown in Table 2
Table 2.Minimum required tests for patient eligibility

ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia; ANC, absolute neutrophil count; CAR, chimeric antigen receptor; CNS, central nervous system; EBMT, European Society for Blood And Marrow Transplantation; LVEF, left ventricular ejection fraction; MRI, magnetic resonance imaging; NHL, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; SPC, summary of product characteristics; ULN, upper limit of normal

*Leukapheresis material for tisagenlecleucel manufacturing will not be accepted from patients with a positive test for active HBV, HCV or HIV (SPC)

Test methods EBMT recommendations Comment
Disease confirmation Histology only for NHL Immunophenotyping for ALL  
Hematology
Hematology ANC >1.0x10 9/L Evidence of adequate bone marrow reserve
Chemistry
Bilirubin < 34umol/L; higher limit acceptable (< 43umol/L) with Gilbert’s syndrome No trial data regarding patients outside of these parameters
AST/ALT < 5x ULN Attempt to identify causes e.g. active infections
Creatinine clearance > 30ml/min Caution is required in patients with CrCl of < 60ml/min
Virology
Hepatitis B* To be done within 30 days of leukapheresis and results must be available at the time of collection and shipment As per national guidelines
Hepatitis C* To be done within 30 days of leukapheresis and results must be available at the time of collection and shipment  As per national guidelines
HIV* To be done within 30 days of leukapheresis and results must be available at the time of collection and shipment  Tisagenlecleucel is using a lentiviral vector whereas axicabtagene ciloleucel uses a retroviral vector
Other work-up
Cardiac function LVEF >40%; assess for pericardial effusion by echocardiography; ECG Work-up of effusions required to identify causes
CNS imaging MRI not required except in those with a history of CNS disease or current neurological symptoms of concern A baseline MRI can be helpful, should severe neurological toxicities arise
Lumbar puncture Lumbar puncture not required except in those with a history of CNS disease or current neurological symptoms of concern  
Fertility Must have a negative serum or urine pregnancy test Test must be repeated and confirmed negative within eight days of the CAR T-cell infusion

Minimum required laboratory tests before apheresis

  • Prior to the guidelines, regulations were based on the donor-recipient relationship irrespective of the intended use
  • The novel guidelines regarding the necessary procedures prior to apheresis are given in Table 3

Table 3.Apheresis checklist

ALC, absolute lymphocyte count; ANC, absolute neutrophil count; ECOG, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group; EBMT, European Society for Blood And Marrow Transplantation; FBC, full blood count; HIV, human immunodeficiency virus; HTLV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus; NAT, nucleic acid testing; SPC, summary of product characteristics

  Prior to Apheresis   EBMT recommendations Comment
ECOG performance status score ECOG ≤ 2 At the discretion of apheresis practitioner
Days after last chemotherapy Allow for recovery from cytotoxic chemotherapy Need for marrow recovery from prior chemotherapy
Days off corticosteroids Ideally, seven days to minimize the effect on lymphocyte collection Physiological replacement doses of hydrocortisone permitted
Blood tests
Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and HTLV To be done within 30 days of leukapheresis and results must be available at the time of collection and shipment  NAT is not necessary if all serological testing is negative
C-reactive protein Recommended to assess for ongoing infection Eligibility for apheresis will need to be decided on a case-by-case basis in the instance of active infection
Standard electrolytes and renal function Required Apheresis may predispose to electrolyte imbalance and limit fluid tolerance
Blood values required for optimal apheresis performance
Hemoglobin Hemoglobin > 80g/LHematocrit > 0.24 To establish a good interface during collection
ANC > 1.0x10 9/L Consistent with recovery from prior chemotherapy
ALC > 0.2x10 9/L Higher count required in small children. Of note, 0.2x10 9/L CD3 +count is the minimum threshold
Platelet count > 30x10 9/L  
FBC To be repeated at the end of the apheresis procedure Apheresis can remove > 30% of circulating platelets

Performing leukapheresis

Bridging therapy

  • Although the ideal bridging therapy regimen is disease- and patient-specific, there are a number of uniform factors for consideration:
  • Patients receiving chemotherapy will be at risk of developing cytokine release syndrome (CRS), encephalopathy or tumour lysis syndrome following lymphodepletion (LD)
  • Bridging therapy should not induce infections, bleeding or organ dysfunction that could interfere with LD and CAR T-cell infusion
  • Immunotherapeutic drugs with a longer half-life may interfere with the expansion or persistence of the infused CAR T-cells
  • Bridging therapy should be given after leukapheresis to prevent interference with T-cell therapy
  • Frequent monitoring of patients after leukapheresis as well as during and following bridging therapy at specialist centers is compulsory

LD conditioning

  • Factors to consider prior to LD conditioning are shown in Table 4
  • Factors requiring laboratory testing prior to LD conditioning are shown in Table 5
Table 4.Considerations prior to LD conditioning

ALC, absolute lymphocyte count; CAR, chimeric antigen receptor; EBMT, European Society for Blood And Marrow Transplantation; LD, lymphodepletion; SPC, summary of product characteristics; WBC, white blood cell count

  EBMT recommendations
CAR T-cell product LD conditioning should only be administered following receipt of CAR T product on site
Clinical conditions Active infections must be excluded or under control before starting LD conditioning
WBC Administer LD conditioning to all patients regardless of WBC or ALC


Table 5.Routine laboratory testing prior to LD conditioning

CC, creatinine clearance; EBMT, European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation; ECG, electrocardiogram; LD, lymphodepletion; LVFE, left ventricular ejection fraction; SPC, summary of product characteristics; ULN, upper limit of normal

Test methods EBMT recommendations Comment
Chemistry
C-reactive protein and/or fibrinogen level Required to rule out ongoing infection Active infection must be excluded or under control before starting LD
Bilirubin <34umol/L; higher limit acceptable (>43umol/L) with Gilbert’s syndrome No trial data regarding patients outside of these parameters
AST/ALT <5xULN Attempt to identify causes e.g. active infections
CC >30 ml/min Modify drug doses according to CC
Other work-up
Cardiac function Repeat cardiac investigations if clinically indicated LVEF >40%; assess for pericardial effusion by echocardiography; ECG

CAR T- cell infusion

  • CAR T-cell infusion should be carried out using a transfusion filter set with a 50-200μm pore size
  • Fluid infusion sets and transfusion sets with leukocyte depletion filters should not be used
  • Pre-medication to prevent adverse reactions is acceptable, however, corticosteroids must be avoided as they may damage the CAR T product
  • Concurrent medication must not be given during CAR T-cell infusion
  • Patients must be assessed before the onset of CAR T product thawing, and CAR T-cell infusion may be delayed in the case of:
    • Active infection
    • Cardiac arrhythmia not controlled with medical management
    • Hypotension requiring vasopressor support
    • Non-hematologic organ dysfunction
    • Significant worsening of the clinical condition since the start of LD

Management of short-term complications

  • Patients must be able to access a trained coordinator 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • 14 days of hospitalization following CAR T-cell therapy
  • Patients must be located within 60 minutes of the treating unit following hospital discharge until day 28 following CAR T infusion
  • Anti-infective prophylaxis following CAR T-cell therapy is infection-dependent

CRS and neurotoxicity

  • As the most common complications following CAR T-cell infusion, CRS and neurotoxicity must be monitored daily using both behavioral observations and laboratory testing methods
  • First- and second-line treatment for severe cases of CRS are tocilizumab plus corticosteroids and siltuximab respectively
  • Daily writings tests following CAR T-cell infusion should be used to detect incipient immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS)
  • Cross-sectional imaging, electroencephalography, and cerebrospinal fluid examination should be used in the management of patients with severe neurotoxicity
  • Anti-epileptic prophylaxis is only recommended in patients with a history of seizures or central nervous system disease
  • ICANS severity has been associated with the severity and early onset of CRS
  • The American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) consensus panel replaced the CARTOX scoring system with the ICE score
  • Table 6illustrates the measures for screening delirium in children
  • CRP and ferritin levels should be monitored daily as they are indicative of CRS and neurotoxicity development
Table 6.Encephalopathy assessment in children < 12 years
  Always Often Sometimes Rarely Never
Eye contact with caregiver 0 1 2 3 4
Purposeful actions 0 1 2 3 4
Aware of their surroundings 0 1 2 3 4
Being restless 4 3 2 1 0
Being inconsolable 4 3 2 1 0
Being underactive 4 3 2 1 0
Slow response to interactions 4 3 2 1 0
Communicating needs and wants 4 3 2 0 0

Management of medium-term complications

  • The guidelines for testing and managing medium-term complications are shown in Table 7
Table 7.Management of medium-term complications

CAR T, chimeric antigen receptor; CMV, cytomegalovirus; CRP, C-reactive protein; EBV, Epstein-Barr virus; FBC, full blood count; IV, intravenous; LDL, lactate dehydrogenase

Test Purpose Frequency Comment
FBC, biochemistry panel, LDH, fibrinogen, CRP Standard follow-up At every visit and as clinically indicated  
CMV, EBV, adenovirus Viral reactivation As clinically indicated  
Quantitative immunoglobulins or serum protein electrophoresis Immune reconstitution Monthly Consider IV immunoglobulins 
Peripheral blood immunophenotyping:  CD3/4/8/16+56/19+ Immune recovery Once monthly for first three months, thrice monthly thereafter in first year Guide to anti-infective prophylaxis
CAR T monitoring where kits are available for routine monitoring of anti-CD19 CAR T CAR T persistence Peripheral blood flow cytometry or transgene by molecular methods as clinically indicated Not recommended by CAR T manufacturers

LTFU

  • The clinic should routinely measure cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive and bone health, disease status, further treatments, infections, immunological status, new cancers, autoimmunity and neurological and psychological status
  • To address the uncertainty surrounding long-term effects of CAR T-cell therapy the guidelines in Table 8have been put in place
Table 8.Tests to be performed at the LTFU clinic

CAR, chimeric antigen receptor; FBC, full blood count; NPA, naso-pharyngeal aspirate; LTFU, long-term follow-up; PB, peripheral blood; PCR, polymerase chain reaction

Test Purpose Frequency Comment
FBC, biochemistry panel Standard follow-up At every visit  
Viral infection (PB PCR, NPA) Viral reactivation As clinically indicated  
Quantitative immunoglobulins with or without serum protein electrophoresis Immune reconstitution At every visit  
Peripheral blood immunophenotyping Immune reconstitution Every second visit Discontinuation following normalization
CAR T monitoring where kits are available for routine monitoring of anti-CD19 CAR T CAR T persistence Every visit Discontinuation when absent for two consecutive tests
Endocrine function Standard follow-up As clinically indicated  

Conclusions:

  • Until now, management of patients receiving CAR T-cell therapy has been clinical trial-, location- and product-specific
  • The novel guidelines provide the first routine measures to enhance global uniformity of CAR T-cell therapy
  1. YESCARTA (axicabtagene ciloleucel) FDA. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/cellular-gene-therapy-products/yescarta-axicabtagene-ciloleucel[Accessed on Feb 2020]
  2. KYMRIAH (tisagenlecleucel) FDA. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/cellular-gene-therapy-products/kymriah-tisagenlecleucel[Accessed on Feb 2020]
  3. Yakoub-Agha I. et al.,Management of adults and children undergoing CAR t-cell therapy: best practice recommendations of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) and the Joint Accreditation Committee of ISCT and EBMT (JACIE). Haematologica.2020 Jan 31;105 (2):297-316 DOI: 10.3324/haematol.2019.229781
  4. Yakoub-Agha I. Management of CAR-T Cell: EBMT/JACIE recommendations. Paper presented at: 2nd European CAR T Cell Meeting;Feb 01, 2020; Sitges, ES

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