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Köhnke, Thomas; Krupka, Christina; Tischer, Johanna; Knösel, Thomas und Subklewe, Marion: Increase of PD-L1 expressing B-precursor ALL cells in a patient resistant to the CD19/CD3-bispecific T cell engager antibody blinatumomab. In: Journal of Hematology & Oncology 2015, 8:111


The bispecific T cell engager blinatumomab has shown encouraging clinical activity in B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). However, about half of relapsed/refractory patients do not respond to therapy. Here, we present the case of a 32-year-old male patient with refractory B-precursor ALL who was resistant to treatment with blinatumomab. Bone marrow immunohistochemistry revealed T cell infiltrates and an increase in programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1)-positive ALL cells as a potential immune escape mechanism. We were able to recapitulate the clinical observation in vitro by showing that blinatumomab was not able to mediate cytotoxicity of CD19-positive ALL cells using autologous T cells. In contrast, the addition of healthy donor T cells led to lysis of ALL cells. These results strongly encourage further systematic evaluation of checkpoint molecules in cases of blinatumomab treatment failure and might highlight a possible mechanism to overcome resistance to this otherwise highly effective treatment.