Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies for multiple myeloma

Lekha Mikkilineni and James N. Kochenderfer


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a nearly always incurable malignancy of plasma cells, so new approaches to treatment are needed. T-cell therapies are a promising approach for treating MM, with a mechanism of action different than those of standard MM treatments. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are fusion proteins incorporating antigen-recognition domains and T-cell signaling domains. T cells genetically engineered to express CARs can specifically recognize antigens. Success of CAR-T cells (CAR-Ts) against leukemia and lymphoma has encouraged development of CAR-T therapies for MM. Target antigens for CARs must be expressed on malignant cells, but expression on normal cells must be absent or limited. B-cell maturation antigen is expressed by normal and malignant plasma cells. CAR-Ts targeting B-cell maturation antigen have demonstrated significant antimyeloma activity in early clinical trials. Toxicities in these trials, including cytokine release syndrome, have been similar to toxicities observed in CAR-T trials for leukemia. Targeting postulated CD19+ myeloma stem cells with anti-CD19 CAR-Ts is a novel approach to MM therapy. MM antigens including CD138, CD38, signaling lymphocyte–activating molecule 7, and κ light chain are under investigation as CAR targets. MM is genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous, so targeting of >1 antigen might often be required for effective treatment of MM with CAR-Ts. Integration of CAR-Ts with other myeloma therapies is an important area of future research. CAR-T therapies for MM are at an early stage of development but have great promise to improve MM treatment.

  • Submitted June 29, 2017.
  • Accepted August 30, 2017.
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