Targeted therapy with monoclonal antibodies in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Curr Opin Oncol. 2013 Nov;25(6):701-6. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000009.


Purpose of review: To describe the current new targeted therapy with monoclonal and bispecific antibodies in adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), to improve response rates and outcome.

Recent findings: Blast cells in ALL express a variety of specific antigens, such as CD19, CD20, CD22, CD33 and CD52, and recently monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) became available to target these antigens. The anti-CD20 MoAb rituximab has substantially improved the outcome in Burkitt lymphoma/leukemia, and is currently applied in de-novo B-precursor ALL. The MoAbs directed against CD22, linked to cytotoxic agents, either to calicheamicin (inotuzomab ozogamicin) or to plant or bacterial toxins (epratuzumab) are explored in refractory/relapsed childhood and adult ALL. Targeting CD19 is of great interest, as it is expressed in all B-lineage cells, including early precursors. The new bispecific antibody blinatumomab combines single chain antibodies to CD19 and CD3, and thereby T cells lyse the CD19 bearing B cells and is effective in patients with positive minimal residual disease (MRD) or refractory/relapsed ALL.

Summary: Antibody therapy in ALL is very promising, with high rate of complete remission and MRD-negativity in advanced ALL. It is currently explored in de-novo ALL to establish the best setting in combination with chemotherapy or even as a monotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived / administration & dosage
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / therapeutic use*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy* / methods
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy* / trends
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Rituximab
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD
  • Rituximab
  • blinatumomab