How I treat high-risk acute myeloid leukemia using preemptive adoptive cellular immunotherapy

Blood. 2023 Jan 5;141(1):22-38. doi: 10.1182/blood.2021012411.


Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) is a potentially curative treatment for patients with high-risk acute leukemias, but unfortunately disease recurrence remains the major cause of death in these patients. Infusion of donor lymphocytes (DLI) has the potential to restore graft-versus-leukemia immunologic surveillance; however, efficacy varies across different hematologic entities. Although relapsed chronic myeloid leukemia, transplanted in chronic phase, has proven remarkably susceptible to DLI, response rates are more modest for relapsed acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To prevent impending relapse, a number of groups have explored administering DLI preemptively on detection of measurable residual disease (MRD) or mixed chimerism. Evidence for the effectiveness of this strategy, although encouraging, comes from only a few, mostly single-center retrospective, nonrandomized studies. This article seeks to (1) discuss the available evidence supporting this approach while highlighting some of the inherent challenges of MRD-triggered treatment decisions post-transplant, (2) portray other forms of postremission cellular therapies, including the role of next-generation target-specific immunotherapies, and (3) provide a practical framework to support clinicians in their decision-making process when considering preemptive cellular therapy for this difficult-to-treat patient population.

MeSH terms

  • Graft vs Host Disease* / etiology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transplantation, Homologous / adverse effects