High CD33-antigen loads in peripheral blood limit the efficacy of gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg) treatment in acute myeloid leukemia patients

Leukemia. 2004 May;18(5):983-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2403350.


Gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg) induces remission in approximately 30% of relapsed AML patients. We previously demonstrated that gemtuzumab infusion results in near-complete CD33 saturation in peripheral blood, and that saturating gemtuzumab levels result in continuous binding and internalization of gemtuzumab due to renewed CD33 expression. We now demonstrate that a high CD33-antigen load in peripheral blood is an independent adverse prognostic factor, likely due to peripheral consumption of gemtuzumab. Indeed, CD33 saturation in bone marrow is significantly reduced (40-90% saturation) as compared with CD33 saturation in corresponding peripheral blood samples (>90%). In vitro, such reduced CD33 saturation levels were strongly related with reduced cell kill. Apparently, high CD33-antigen loads in blood consume gemtuzumab and thereby limit its penetration into bone marrow. Consequently, CD33 saturation in bone marrow is reduced, which hampers efficient cell kill. Therefore, gemtuzumab should be administered at higher or repeated doses, or, preferably, after reduction of the leukemic cell burden by classical chemotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, CD / blood*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / blood*
  • Gemtuzumab
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / blood
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Sialic Acid Binding Ig-like Lectin 3


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