Purpose: Daratumumab treatment results in a marked reduction of CD38 expression on multiple myeloma (MM) cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical implications and the underlying mechanisms of daratumumab-mediated CD38 reduction. Experimental design: We evaluated the effect of daratumumab alone or in combination with lenalidomide-dexamethasone, on CD38 levels of MM cells and non-tumor immune cells in the GEN501 study (daratumumab monotherapy) and the GEN503 study (daratumumab combined with lenalidomide-dexamethasone). In vitro assays were also performed. Results: In both trials daratumumab reduced CD38 expression on MM cells within hours after starting the first infusion, regardless of depth and duration of the response. In addition, CD38 expression on non-tumor immune cells, including NK-, T- B-cells and monocytes, was also reduced irrespective of alterations in their absolute numbers during therapy. In-depth analyses revealed that CD38 levels of MM cells were only reduced in the presence of complement or effector cells, suggesting that the rapid elimination of CD38high MM cells can contribute to CD38 reduction. In addition, we discovered that daratumumab-CD38 complexes and accompanying cell membrane were actively transferred from MM cells to monocytes and granulocytes. This process of trogocytosis was also associated with reduced surface levels of some other membrane proteins including CD49d, CD56, and CD138. Conclusion: Daratumumab rapidly reduced CD38 expression levels, at least in part, through trogocytosis. Importantly, all these effects also occurred in patients with deep and durable responses, thus excluding CD38 reduction alone as a mechanism of daratumumab resistance.
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