Two distinct effector memory cell populations of WT1 (Wilms' tumor gene 1)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in acute myeloid leukemia patients

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2015 Jul;64(7):791-804. doi: 10.1007/s00262-015-1683-7. Epub 2015 Apr 3.


Wilms' tumor gene 1 (WT1) protein is a promising tumor-associated antigen for cancer immunotherapy. We have been performing WT1 peptide vaccination with good clinical responses in over 750 patients with leukemia or solid cancers. In this study, we generated single-cell gene-expression profiles of the effector memory (EM) subset of WT1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in peripheral blood of nine acute myeloid leukemia patients treated with WT1 peptide vaccine, in order to discriminate responders (WT1 mRNA levels in peripheral blood decreased to undetectable levels, decreased but stayed at abnormal levels, were stable at undetectable levels, or remained unchanged from the initial abnormal levels more than 6 months after WT1 vaccination) from non-responders (leukemic blast cells and/or WT1 mRNA levels increased relative to the initial state within 6 months of WT1 vaccination) prior to WT1 vaccination. Cluster and principal component analyses performed using 83 genes did not discriminate between responders and non-responders prior to WT1 vaccination. However, these analyses revealed that EM subset of WT1-specific CTLs could be divided into two groups: the "activated" and "quiescent" states; in responders, EM subset of the CTLs shifted to the "quiescent" state, whereas in non-responders, those shifted to the "activated" state following WT1 vaccination. These results demonstrate for the first time the existence of two distinct EM states, each of which was characteristic of responders or non-responders, of WT1-specific CTLs in AML patients, and raises the possibility of using advanced gene-expression profile analysis to clearly discriminate between responders and non-responders prior to WT1 vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / immunology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / blood
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology
  • Vaccines, Subunit / therapeutic use
  • WT1 Proteins / genetics
  • WT1 Proteins / immunology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vaccines, Subunit
  • WT1 Proteins
  • WT1 protein, human