The CD19 molecule is ubiquitously expressed throughout all stages of B-cell differentiation, but is not found on haemopoietic stem cells. Since most B-cell leukaemias and lymphomas retain CD19 expression, it represents an excellent target for immunotherapy of these malignant disorders. Over the past 10 years, compelling pre-clinical evidence has accrued to indicate that expression of a CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) in peripheral blood T-cells exerts therapeutic efficacy in diverse models of B-cell malignancy. Building on this, clinical studies are ongoing in several centres in which autologous CD19-specific CAR T-cells are undergoing evaluation in patients with acute and chronic B-cell leukaemia and refractory lymphoma. Early data have generated considerable excitement, providing grounds to speculate that CAR-based immunotherapy will radically alter existing management paradigms in B-cell malignancy. The focus of this mini-review is to evaluate these emerging clinical data and to speculate on clinical prospects for this new therapeutic modality.
Keywords: Adoptive immunotherapy, CD19, chimeric antigen receptor, gene therapy, leukaemia, lymphoma.