Reona Sakemura, MD

Mayo Clinic Rochester

Titles + affiliations

Assistant Professor
Mayo Clinic Rochester


Sequential therapy of tafasitamab and CART19 increases the therapeutic index of CART19


Patients with cancer who are unresponsive to standard therapies have poor outcomes with limited options available. Recently, immunotherapy has shown promise in various cancers. This approach relies on the patient's own immune cells, including T cells, to identify and destroy cancer cells. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy is a promising therapy in this category. In this therapy, a patient's T cells are re-engineered to express an antigen marker that recognizes a specific target on cancer cells, which are then reintroduced to the patient to kill cancer cells. CART cell therapy has achieved remarkable success in patients with relapsed leukemia, leading to FDA approval. However, the treatment is also associated with life-threatening toxicity, such as cytokine storm, and cancer cells likely relapse after therapy even though CART cells eradicate cancer cells. Our research team has been working to overcome these limitations, and we have discovered that optimizing antigen levels on cancer cells with a drug called tafasitamab before CART cell therapy can reduce toxic side effects and enhance the therapy's anti-cancer activity. During the awarded period, we plan to study this novel finding in more detail. At the end of this project, we hope to have enough information to design a clinical trial of a sequential therapy of tafasitamab and CART cells that improves the efficacy and safety of CART cell therapy.

Sakemura - psd

Leukemia Research Foundation grant
$150K awarded in 2023

Disease focus
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

Research focus