The target antigens of graft-versus-leukemia that are tumor-associated are incompletely characterized.
We examined responses developing against CML66, an immunogenic antigen preferentially expressed in myeloid progenitor cells identified from a patient with chronic myelogenous leukemia who attained long-lived remission following CD4+ donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI).
From this patient, CML66-reactive CD8+ T cell clones were detected against an endogenously presented HLA-B*4403-restricted epitope (HDVDALLW). Neither CML66-specific antibody nor T cell responses were detectable in peripheral blood before DLI. However, by one month after DLI, CD8+ T cells were present in peripheral blood, and at 10-fold higher frequency in marrow. Subsequently, plasma antibody to CML66 developed in association with disease remission. Donor-derived CML66-reactive T cells were detected at low levels in vivo in marrow prior to DLI by ELISpot and by a nested polymerase chain reaction-based assay to detect clonotypic T cell receptor sequences, but not in blood of the patient pre-DLI, nor of the graft donor.
CD4+ DLI results in rapid expansion of pre-existing marrow-resident leukemia-specific donor CD8+ T cells, followed by a cascade of antigen-specific immune responses detectable in blood. Our single-antigen analysis thus demonstrates that durable post-transplant tumor immunity is directed in part against nonpolymorphic overexpressed leukemia antigens, that elicit coordinated cellular and humoral immunity.