Purpose: The target antigens of graft-versus-leukemia that are tumor associated are incompletely characterized.
Experimental design: We examined responses developing against CML66, an immunogenic antigen preferentially expressed in myeloid progenitor cells identified from a patient with chronic myelogenous leukemia who attained long-lived remission following CD4+ donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI).
Results: From this patient, CML66-reactive CD8+ T-cell clones were detected against an endogenously presented HLA-B*4403-restricted epitope (HDVDALLW). Neither CML66-specific antibody nor T-cell responses were detectable in peripheral blood before DLI. However, by 1 month after DLI, CD8+ T cells were present in peripheral blood and at 10-fold higher frequency in marrow. Subsequently, plasma antibody to CML66 developed in association with disease remission. Donor-derived CML66-reactive T cells were detected at low levels in vivo in marrow before DLI by ELISpot and by a nested PCR-based assay to detect clonotypic T-cell receptor sequences but not in blood of the patient pre-DLI nor of the graft donor.
Conclusions: CD4+ DLI results in rapid expansion of preexisting marrow-resident leukemia-specific donor CD8+ T cells, followed by a cascade of antigen-specific immune responses detectable in blood. Our single-antigen analysis thus shows that durable posttransplant tumor immunity is directed in part against nonpolymorphic overexpressed leukemia antigens that elicit coordinated cellular and humoral immunity.
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