ABSTRACT Effective therapies for treating patients with steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host-disease (SR-aGVHD), particularly strategies that reduce the duration of immunosuppression following remission, are urgently needed. The investigated immunotoxin combination consists of a mixture of anti-CD3 and anti-CD7 antibodies separately conjugated to recombinant ricin A (CD3/CD7-IT), which induces in vivo depletion of T cells and natural killer (NK) cells and suppresses T cell receptor activation. We conducted a phase I/II trial to examine the safety and efficacy of CD3/CD7-IT in 20 patients with SR-aGVHD; 17 of these patients (85%) had severe SR-aGVHD, and all 20 patients had visceral organ involvement, including 18 (90%) with gastrointestinal (GI) involvement and 5 (25%) with liver involvement. A validated 2-biomarker algorithm classified the majority of patients (11 of 20) as high risk. On day 28 after the start of CD3/CD7-IT therapy, the overall response rate was 60% (12 of 20), with 10 patients (50%) achieving a complete response. The 6-month overall survival rate was 60% (12 of 20), including 64% (7 of 11) classified as high risk by biomarkers. The 1-week course of treatment with CD3/CD7-IT caused profound but transient depletion of T cells and NK cells, followed by rapid recovery of the immune system with a diverse TCR Vβ repertoire, and preservation of Epstein-Barr virus- and cytomegalovirus-specific T cell clones. Furthermore, our results indicate that CD3/CD7-IT appeared to be safe and well tolerated, with a relatively low prevalence of manageable and reversible adverse events, primarily worsening of hypoalbuminemia, microangiopathy, and thrombocytopenia. These encouraging results suggest that CD3/CD7-IT may improve patient outcomes in patients with SR-aGVHD.
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