Internalization and cell cycle-dependent killing of leukemic cells by Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin: rationale for efficacy in CD33-negative malignancies with endocytic capacity

Leukemia. 2004 Feb;18(2):316-25. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2403205.


Multicenter phase II trials with Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin (GO/Mylotarg), consisting of a CD33 antibody linked to the cytotoxic drug calicheamicin, have shown a 30% overall response rate in relapsed acute myeloid leukemia patients. However, no clear correlation was observed between CD33 expression on leukemic blasts and response to GO therapy. We analyzed the CD33 specificity of GO-induced cell death and the effect of GO on CD33-negative malignancies. We demonstrate that lysis induced by clinically relevant GO concentrations is partially CD33 mediated, and that efficient non-CD33-mediated GO uptake can occur via endocytosis. In agreement with these results, we observed GO-mediated death of human CD33-negative acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells both in vitro and in vivo in an NOD/SCID mouse model. Finally, sensitivity to GO-induced cell death was at least partially determined by the activation status of leukemic cells, with cells in activated phases of the cell cycle being most effective in both CD33-specific GO internalization, renewed expression of CD33 molecules, and non-CD33-mediated GO uptake via endocytosis. In conclusion, these data provide mechanistic insight into the efficacy of GO in CD33-positive as well as in CD33-negative malignancies with endocytic capacity, and provide a rationale for the use of GO in the treatment of malignancies with endocytic capacity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aminoglycosides / administration & dosage
  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacology
  • Aminoglycosides / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD / physiology*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / physiology*
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endocytosis*
  • Female
  • Gemtuzumab
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / immunology
  • Leukemia / pathology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / immunology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutagens / pharmacology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sialic Acid Binding Ig-like Lectin 3


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • CD33 protein, human
  • Cd33 protein, mouse
  • Mutagens
  • Sialic Acid Binding Ig-like Lectin 3
  • Gemtuzumab