The Future Is Now: Chimeric Antigen Receptors as New Targeted Therapies for Childhood Cancer
Improved outcomes for children with cancer hinge on the development of new targeted therapies with acceptable short-term and long-term toxicity. Progress in basic, preclinical, and clinical arenas spanning cellular immunology, gene therapy, and cell-processing technologies have paved the way for clinical applications of chimeric antigen receptor–based therapies. This is a new form of targeted immunotherapy that merges the exquisite targeting specificity of monoclonal antibodies with the potent cytotoxicity, potential for expansion, and long-term persistence provided by cytotoxic T cells. Although this field is still in its infancy, clinical trials have already shown clinically significant antitumor activity in neuroblastoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and B-cell lymphoma, and trials targeting a variety of other adult and pediatric malignancies are under way. Ongoing work is focused on identifying optimal tumor targets and elucidating and manipulating both cell- and host-associated factors to support expansion and persistence of the genetically engineered cells in vivo. In pediatric oncology, CD19 and GD2 are compelling antigens that have already been identified for targeting pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia and neuroblastoma, respectively, with this approach, but it is likely that other antigens expressed in a variety of childhood cancers will also soon be targeted using this therapy. The potential to target essentially any tumor-associated cell-surface antigen for which a monoclonal antibody can be made opens up an entirely new arena for targeted therapy of childhood cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 18(10); 2780–90. ©2012 AACR.