Computational model of CAR T-cell immunotherapy dissects and predicts leukemia patient responses at remission, resistance, and relapse

Lunan Liu, Chao Ma, Zhuoyu Zhang, Matthew T. Witkowski, Iannis Aifantis, Saba Ghassemi, Weiqiang Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Adaptive CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell transfer has become a promising treatment for leukemia. Although patient responses vary across different clinical trials, reliable methods to dissect and predict patient responses to novel therapies are currently lacking. Recently, the depiction of patient responses has been achieved using in silico computational models, with prediction application being limited. Methods We established a computational model of CAR T-cell therapy to recapitulate key cellular mechanisms and dynamics during treatment with responses of continuous remission (CR), non-response (NR), and CD19-positive (CD19 +) and CD19-negative (CD19 -) relapse. Real-time CAR T-cell and tumor burden data of 209 patients were collected from clinical studies and standardized with unified units in bone marrow. Parameter estimation was conducted using the stochastic approximation expectation maximization algorithm for nonlinear mixed-effect modeling. Results We revealed critical determinants related to patient responses at remission, resistance, and relapse. For CR, NR, and CD19 + relapse, the overall functionality of CAR T-cell led to various outcomes, whereas loss of the CD19 + antigen and the bystander killing effect of CAR T-cells may partly explain the progression of CD19 - relapse. Furthermore, we predicted patient responses by combining the peak and accumulated values of CAR T-cells or by inputting early-stage CAR T-cell dynamics. A clinical trial simulation using virtual patient cohorts generated based on real clinical patient datasets was conducted to further validate the prediction. Conclusions Our model dissected the mechanism behind distinct responses of leukemia to CAR T-cell therapy. This patient-based computational immuno-oncology model can predict late responses and may be informative in clinical treatment and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere005360
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 6 2022


  • computational biology
  • immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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