Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have dramatically improved the outcome of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Besides inhibiting target kinases in leukemic cells, 2nd generation TKI dasatinib also inhibits off-targets in immune effector cells resulting in atypical immune responses in some patients. Dasatinib has been described to increase the proportion of late effector memory T-cells, however, to date no follow-up studies have been performed in first-line patients. In this study, we explored the functional properties of T-cells using primary samples from CML patients (n = 28) on TKI therapy. Granzyme B (GrB) was used as a marker for late phase antigen experienced CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. Dasatinib treatment increased the numbers of both GrB expressing memory CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells when compared with healthy controls. Functionally, the GrB+CD4+ T-cells were highly active and differentiated into Th1-type T-cells capable of producing IFN-γ, which is important for tumor control. Similar kind of increase was not observed during imatinib or nilotinib therapy. These data support the dual mode of action of dasatinib: potent BCR-ABL1 inhibition in leukemic cells is accompanied by the enhancement of cellular immunity, which may have implications in the long-term control of leukemia.
Keywords: CML; Th1-immune response; dasatinib; granzyme B; tyrosine kinase inhibitors.