Background: Contemporary risk adapted treatment protocols for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) rely on accurate risk assessment strategies for disease re-occurrence by incorporating clinical parameters as well as immunological, molecular and cytogenetic features of the blasts at initial manifestation. Additional risk stratification is provided by analysis of the IN VITRO and IN VIVO response of the blasts towards standard chemotherapy. Despite adapted therapies, a number of children with good and bad prognostic factors still fail therapy. One approach to this problem might be to incorporate monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) as additional modalities into the first or second line treatment.
Patients and methods: In order to identify target antigen structures, we analyzed the immunological expression profiles of blasts from 181 patients with B-cell precursor ALL treated at our institution in 11 years according to the CoALL-92/97/03 protocols. Blasts were classified according to the EGIL guidelines as 9 proB-, 110 common (c-) and 62 preB-ALL.
Results: > 99 and 96 % of patients expressed CD19 and CD22 on > 90 % of their blasts, respectively. HLA-DR on > 95 % blasts was present in all patients. CD10 was expressed on all c-/preB-ALL and absent on proB-ALL cells. CD20 was expressed on 11-37 % of B-cell precursor ALL samples. CD34 positive blasts were found in 89, 83 and 68 % of patients with proB-, c- and preB-ALL, respectively. CD37 expression was detected in 0-18 % of patients. < 20 % CD45(+) blasts were found in 11, 19 and 18 % of patients with proB-, c- and preB-ALL. CD33(+) was expressed on 33, 29 and 21 % of patients samples with proB-, c- and preB-ALL. Other myeloid antigens (CD13, CD14, CD15, CD65) were positive on blasts in < 25 % of patients. Analyses of the immunological profile of blasts in 9 consecutive children with relapse revealed that the antigen expression profile varied little compared to the initial diagnosis for CD10, CD19, CD22 and HLA-DR.
Conclusions: These analyses clearly identified the three antigens CD19, CD22 and HLA-DR present on blasts in more than 90 % of patients as potential target structures for targeted therapies with native or toxin-bound monoclonal antibodies in childhood ALL.