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Cellular immunosuppression in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Effect of consolidation chemotherapy

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The present study was designed to evaluate the chemotherapy-induced cellular immunosuppression in 20 children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in remission and receiving maintenance chemotherapy. Peripheral blood was serially obtained from leukemic children during vincristine/cyclophosphamide/6-mercaptopurine/prednisone combined consolidation chemotherapy. The mean absolute number of peripheral blood lymphocytes as well as the mean absolute numbers of lymphocyte subsets (T cells, T cell subsets, B cells, and natural killer cells) from leukemic children before consolidation chemotherapy were all significantly lower than in control subjects; however, the percentages of lymphocyte subsets were similar in both groups. After consolidation chemotherapy, the percentages of CD4+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells were significantly decreased and the percentages of monocytes and CD8+ T lymphocytes were significantly increased. Phytohemagglutinin- and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate-induced production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and NK-cell-mediated cytotoxic activity by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were also substantially decreased in the post-therapy groups. NK activity correlated with the percentage of NK cells in PBMC. In contrast, OK432-induced production of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and killer activity against NK-resistant target cells were significantly increased after therapy as compared with the pre-therapy and control groups. TNFα production correlated with the percentage of monocytes in PBMC. These results demonstrate that substantial quantitative and qualitative chemotherapy-induced abnormalities of the cellular immune system are present in the majority of patients treated with ALL. It is also suggested that the increased TNFα production by monocytes and the appearance of potent killing activity against NK-resistant targets might compensate for the defects of IL-2 production and NK activity during intensive consolidation chemotherapy.

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Correspondence to Yoshihiro Komada.

Additional information

This work was supported by a grant-in-aid for cancer research from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Japan, and a grant-in-aid from the Association for the Support of Children with Cancer

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Komada, Y., Zhang, S., Zhou, Y. et al. Cellular immunosuppression in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Effect of consolidation chemotherapy. Cancer Immunol Immunother 35, 271–276 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01789334

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Key words

  • Immunosuppression
  • Chemotherapy
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia