Mustang Bio licenses Fred Hutch CD20 CAR-T immunotherapy for lymphoma trial

New type of immunotherapy for people with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Dr. Brian Till
"It is very exciting to be able to bring this promising treatment to patients with relapsed lymphomas," said Dr. Brian Till of Fred Hutch's licensing agreement with Mustang Bio Inc. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

An immunotherapy technology developed by Dr. Brian Till with Dr. Oliver Press at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been licensed by Mustang Bio Inc., a subsidiary of the biopharmaceutical company Fortress Biotech Inc.

The exclusive, worldwide license, announced today by Mustang Bio, will allow a new type of CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy to be tested in a clinical trial as a treatment for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The novel immunotherapy targets CD20, a protein marker on cancer cells in lymphoma.

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“After developing the CD20 CAR for several years in the laboratory and seeing the modified T cells successfully treat tumors in mice, it is very exciting to be able to bring this promising treatment to patients with relapsed lymphomas,” said Till, a faculty member in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch.

“The agreement will also provide critical support to be able to conduct the clinical trial testing our CD20 CAR-T cells,” he said.

A Phase 1/2 clinical trial partially supported by Mustang Bio is expected to begin at the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical care partner, within the next few months. It will be led by Dr. Mazyar Shadman, a faculty member in Fred Hutch’s Clinical Research Division. The trial will involve about 30 patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Eligible patients will first get a biopsy to make sure they have the CD20 marker on their tumor.

“We look forward to working with the team at Fred Hutch to rapidly advance the promising CD20 technology to patients in need,” said Dr. Manuel Litchman, president and chief executive officer of Mustang Bio, in a news release announcing the licensing agreement. “With the execution of this agreement, Mustang is now evaluating six novel CAR T’s in clinical and preclinical trials, and we remain focused on expanding our pipeline of compelling CAR-T therapies.”

Other CAR-T therapies for lymphoma patients target the CD19 molecule, but the responses are not 100 percent, Till said. “Sometimes people lose the CD19 protein on their cancerous cells, and then the CD19 CAR-T therapy is no longer able to target and destroy the cancer. This usually results in relapse.”

The new clinical trial is one of the first in the world to target CD20 using CAR T-cell therapy. Till is hopeful the CD20 CAR T will work as well as — or if not better — than the CD19 CAR-T therapy, as suggested in preclinical studies. CD20 CAR T will provide an alternative for lymphoma patients whose cancer cells do not express CD19 and who would therefore not benefit from CD19 CAR-T therapy. Another option could be to use the CD20 CAR T as a combination therapy with CD19 CAR T or other agents that would work on multiple cancer markers to eliminate the disease.

“We are delighted by this partnership with Mustang Bio,” Till said. “We greatly value the CAR T-cell experience they bring to the table, in part derived from their work with our colleagues at the City of Hope.”

Preclinical development of this new strategy was supported by the Giuliani Family Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Bezos family. Press holds the David and Patricia Giuliani/Oliver Press Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Fred Hutch.

Note: Scientists at Fred Hutch played a role in developing these discoveries, and Fred Hutch and certain of its scientists may benefit financially from this work in the future.

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