CD34(+)CD19(-)CD22(+) B-cell progenitors may underlie phenotypic escape in patients treated with CD19-directed therapies

Bueno C; Barrena S; Bataller A; Ortiz-Maldonado V; Elliott N; O'Byrne S; Wang G; Rovira M; Gutierrez-Agüera F; Trincado JL; Gonzalez M; Morgades M; Sorigué M; Barcena P; Zanetti SR; Torrebadell M; Vega-García N; Rives S; Mallo M; Sole F; Mead AJ; Roberts I; Thongjuea S; Psaila B; Juan M; Delgado J; Urbano-Ispizua Á; Ribera JM; Orfao A; Roy A; Menéndez P.


CD19-directed immunotherapies have revolutionized the treatment of advanced B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Despite initial impressive rates of complete remission (CR) many patients ultimately relapse. Patients with B-ALL successfully treated with CD19-directed T cells eventually relapse, which, coupled with the early onset of CD22 expression during B-cell development, suggests that preexisting CD34(+)CD22(+)CD19(-) (pre)-leukemic cells represent an early progenitor origin-related mechanism underlying phenotypic escape to CD19-directed immunotherapies. We demonstrate that CD22 expression precedes CD19 expression during B-cell development. CD34(+)CD19(-)CD22(+) cells are found in diagnostic and relapsed bone marrow samples of similar to 70% of patients with B-ALL, and their frequency increases twofold in patients with B-ALL in CR after CD19 CAR T-cell therapy. The median of CD34(+)CD19(-)CD22(+) cells before treatment was threefold higher in patients in whom B-ALL relapsed after CD19-directed immunotherapy (median follow-up, 24 months). Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis in flow-sorted cell populations and xenograft modeling revealed that CD34(+)CD19(-)CD22(+) cells harbor the genetic abnormalities present at diagnosis and initiate leukemogenesis in vivo. Our data suggest that preleukemic CD34(+)CD19(-)CD22(+) progenitors underlie phenotypic escape after CD19-directed immunotherapies and reinforce ongoing clinical studies aimed at CD19/CD22 dual targeting as a strategy for reducing CD19(-) relapses. The implementation of CD34/CD19/CD22 immunophenotyping in clinical laboratories for initial diagnosis and subsequent monitoring of patients with B-ALL during CD19-targeted therapy is encouraged.

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