Lymphodepletion is permissive to the development of spontaneous T-cell responses to the self-antigen PR1 early after allogeneic stem cell transplantation and in patients with acute myeloid leukemia undergoing WT1 peptide vaccination following chemotherapy
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PR1, an HLA-A*0201 epitope shared by proteinase-3 (PR3) and elastase (ELA2) proteins, is expressed in normal neutrophils and overexpressed in myeloid leukemias. PR1-specific T cells have been linked to graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. We hypothesized that lymphopenia induced by chemo-radiotherapy can enhance weak autoimmune responses to self-antigens such as PR1. We measured PR1-specific responses in 27 patients 30–120 days following allogeneic stem cell transplant (SCT) and correlated these with ELA2 and PR3 expression and minimal residual disease (MRD). Post-SCT 10/13 CML, 6/9 ALL, and 4/5 solid tumor patients had PR1 responses correlating with PR3 and ELA2 expression. At day 180 post-SCT, 8/8 CML patients with PR1 responses were BCR-ABL-negative compared with 2/5 BCR-ABL-positive patients (P = 0.025). In contrast, PR1 responses were detected in 2/4 MRD-negative compared with 4/5 MRD-positive ALL patients (P = 0.76). To assess whether the lymphopenic milieu also exaggerates weak T-cell responses in the autologous setting, we measured spontaneous induction of PR1 responses in 3 AML patients vaccinated with WT1-126 peptide following lymphodepletion. In addition to WT1-specific T cells, we detected PR1-specific T cells in 2 patients during hematopoietic recovery. Our findings suggest that lymphopenia induced by chemo-radiotherapy enhances weak autoimmune responses to self-antigens, which may result in GVL if the leukemia expresses the relevant self-antigen.
KeywordsPR1 WT1 Vaccine Lymphopenia-driven homeostasis Leukemia Immunotherapy
This study was supported by an NIH bench-to-bedside award. K.R. acknowledges the support of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre. We would like to thank the patients who participated in the study and the nursing and medical staff at the Clinical Centre, NHLBI.
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