City of Hope Is Enrolling Patients in First of Its Kind Clinical Trial for Brain Tumor Patients

The trial, which received a $4.1 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and Gateway for Cancer Research, combines City of Hope’s unique CAR T cell therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors

DUARTE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#CityofHope–City of Hope has opened a first-in-human clinical trial for patients with recurrent glioblastoma – the trial is the first to combine City of Hope’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells that target the IL13Rα2 antigen common on brain tumor cells in combination with nivolumab (commercial name: Opdivo), an anti-PD1 antibody, and ipilimumab (commercial name: Yervoy), also a checkpoint inhibitor that blocks the CTLA-4 protein.

To launch the randomized trial, National Institutes of Health (R01CA236500) awarded $3.3 million over five years to Behnam Badie, M.D., The Heritage Provider Network Professor in Gene Therapy and chief of City of Hope’s Division of Neurosurgery, and Christine Brown, Ph.D., City of Hope’s The Heritage Provider Network Professor in Immunotherapy, and deputy director of City of Hope’s T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory; Brown and Badie also received $800,000 from Gateway for Cancer Research.

“Our hope is that by combining two powerful immunotherapies – CAR T cell therapy and checkpoint inhibitors – we can find additional treatments for patients with malignant glioma, who currently have few options,” Brown said. “In addition, the trial will allow us to conduct liquid biopsies of the cerebrospinal fluid throughout the treatment time to query the central nervous system, furthering our understanding of how checkpoint inhibitors alter the function and persistence of CAR T cells, as well as how it potentially promotes endogenous immune responses in the brain.”

The trial will deliver CAR T cells that target IL13Rα2 locally to the brain, by direct injection to the tumor site and through infusion into the ventricular system. City of Hope was the first to use this type of delivery for glioblastoma patients receiving CAR T treatment, as well as the first to investigate CAR T cells targeting IL13Rα2. A 2016 case study in the New England Journal of Medicine outlined how a City of Hope patient’s brain cancer regressed for 7.5 months after receiving CAR T therapy to effectively attack cells with IL13Rα2.

With product provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb, patients will also receive nivolumab and ipilimumab. Nivolumab is an immune checkpoint inhibitor that can prevent the PD-1 protein from doing its job, which is to suppress the immune system from fighting cancer. By putting PD-1 in check, the body’s immune system can better fight cancerous cells. Ipilimumab blocks the CTLA-4 protein in a similar way.

For the trial, all patients will receive the IL13Rα2 CAR T cells weekly, combined with nivolumab every other week. Patients on the experimental arm will additionally receive ipilimumab and nivolumab, each dosed once 14 days prior to the start of combination therapy with CAR T cells plus nivolumab.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of nivolumab for patients with various cancers, including metastatic melanoma, nonsmall cell lung cancer, classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and head and neck cancer. Clinical trials are underway at City of Hope and other institutions to expand the use of nivolumab for other cancers or for use with other therapies. The FDA has approved the use of ipilimumab for metastatic melanoma or in combination with nivolumab for renal cell carcinoma and colorectal cancer.

Mustang Bio Inc. (NASDAQ: MBIO) is the exclusive licensee of City of Hope patents covering its IL13Rα2-specific CAR T cell therapy.

About City of Hope

City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is the highest ranked cancer hospital in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals: Specialty Ranking. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.


Letisia Marquez