While opening new frontiers for the cure of malignant and non-malignant diseases, the increasing use of cell therapy poses also several new challenges related to the safety of a living drug. The most effective and consolidated cell therapy approach is allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), the only cure for several patients with high-risk hematological malignancies. The potential of allogeneic HSCT is strictly dependent on the donor immune system, particularly on alloreactive T lymphocytes, that promote the beneficial graft-versus-tumor effect (GvT), but may also trigger the detrimental graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD). Gene transfer technologies allow to manipulate donor T-cells to enforce GvT and foster immune reconstitution, while avoiding or controlling GvHD. The suicide gene approach is based on the transfer of a suicide gene into donor lymphocytes, for a safe infusion of a wide T-cell repertoire, that might be selectively controlled in vivo in case of GvHD. The herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (HSV-TK) is the suicide gene most extensively tested in humans. Expression of HSV-TK in donor lymphocytes confers lethal sensitivity to the anti-herpes drug, ganciclovir. Progressive improvements in suicide genes, vector technology and transduction protocols have allowed to overcome the toxicity of GvHD while preserving the antitumor efficacy of allogeneic HSCT. Several phase I-II clinical trials in the last 20 years document the safety and the efficacy of HSV-TK approach, able to maintain its clear value over the last decades, in the rapidly progressing horizon of cancer cellular therapy.
cellular adoptive immunotherapy; gene therapy; allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; suicide gene therapy; TK cells
The genetic background of donor and recipient is an important factor determining the outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). We applied a whole genome analysis to investigate genetic variants - other than HLA class I and II - associated with negative outcome after HLA-identical sibling allo-HSCT in a cohort of 110 β-Thalassemic patients. We identified two single nucleotide polymorphisms in BAT2 (A/G) and BAT3 (T/C) genes, SNP rs11538264 and SNP rs10484558, both located in the HLA class III region, in strong Linkage Disequilibrium between each other (R2=0.92). When considered as single SNP, none of them reached a significant association with graft rejection (nominal P < 0.00001 for BAT2 SNP rs11538264, and P < 0.0001 for BAT3 SNP rs10484558). Whereas, the BAT2/BAT3 A/C haplotype was present at significantly higher frequency in patients who rejected as compared to those with functional graft (30.0% vs. 2.6%, nominal P = 1.15×10−8; and adjusted P = 0.0071).
The BAT2/BAT3 polymorphisms and specifically the A/C haplotype may represent novel immunogenetic factor associated with graft rejection in patients undergoing allo-HSCT.
Beta-thalassemia; Allogeneic hematopoietic stem transplantation; whole genome analysis; BAT2; BAT3
Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) is one of the curative treatments for hematologic malignancies, but is hampered by severe complications, such as acute or chronic graft-versus-host-disease (aGvHD; cGvHD) and infections. CD34-selection of stem cells reduces the risk of aGvHD, but also leads to increased infectious complications and relapse. Thus, we studied the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of transfer of gene modified donor T-cells shortly after allo-HSCT in two clinical trials between 2002 and 2007 and here we compare the results to unmodified donor leukocyte infusion (DLI). The aim of these trials was to provide patients with the protection of T-cells after T-cell-depleted allo-HSCT in the matched or mismatched donor setting with an option to delete transduced T-cells, if severe aGvHD occurred within the trial period. Donor-T-cells were transduced with the replication-deficient retrovirus SFCMM-3, expressing HSV-TK and the truncated ΔLNGFR for selection of transduced cells. Transduced cells were transfused either after day +60 (matched donors) or on day +42 (haploidentical donors). Nine patients were included in the first trial (MHH; 2002 until 2007), two were included in TK007 (2005–2009) and six serves as a control group for outcome after haploidentical transplantation without HSV-TK-transduced DLI. Three patients developed acute GvHD, two had grade I of the skin, one had aGvHD on day +131 (post-HSCT; +89 post-HSV-TK DLI) grade II, which was successfully controlled by ganciclovir (GCV). Donor chimerism was stabilized after transfusion of the transduced cells in all patients treated. Functionality of HSV-TK gene expressing T-cells was shown by loss of bcr-able gene expression as well as by control of cytomegalovirus-reactivation. To date, six patients have relapsed and died, two after a second hematopoietic stem cell transplantation without T-cell depletion or administration of unmodified T-cells. Eleven patients (seven post-HSV-TK DLI) are alive and well to date.
gene transfer; horizontal; gene therapy; proteomics data; allogeneic stem cell transplantation; graft vs. host disease
Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) is an inherited immunodeficiency caused by mutations in the gene encoding WASP, a protein regulating the cytoskeleton. Hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell (HSPC) transplants can be curative but, when matched donors are unavailable, infusion of autologous HSPCs modified ex vivo by gene therapy is an alternative approach. We used a lentiviral vector encoding functional WASP to genetically correct HSPCs from three WAS patients and re-infused the cells after reduced-intensity conditioning regimen. All three patients showed stable engraftment of WASP-expressing cells and improvements in platelet counts, immune functions, and clinical score. Vector integration analyses revealed highly polyclonal and multi-lineage haematopoiesis resulting from the gene corrected HSPCs. Lentiviral gene therapy did not induce selection of integrations near oncogenes and no aberrant clonal expansion was observed after 20–32 months. Although extended clinical observation is required to establish long-term safety, lentiviral gene therapy represents a promising treatment for WAS.
HLA-DP antigens are beta-alpha heterodimers encoded by polymorphic HLA-DPB1 and -DPA1 alleles, respectively, in strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) with each other. Non-permissive unrelated donor (UD)-recipient HLA-DPB1 mismatches across three different T cell epitope (TCE) groups are associated with increased mortality after hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), but the role of HLA-DPA1 is unclear. We studied 1281 onco-hematologic patients after 10/10 HLA-matched UD-HCT facilitated by the National Marrow Donor Program. Non-permissive mismatches defined solely by HLA-DPB1 TCE groups were associated with significantly higher risks of treatment-related mortality compared to permissive mismatches (HR 1.30, CI 1.06–1.53; p=0.009) or allele matches. Moreover, non-permissive HLA-DPB1 TCE group mismatches in the graft versus host (GvH) direction significantly decreased the risk of relapse compared to permissive mismatches (HR 0.55, CI 0.37–0.80; p=0.002) or allele matches. Splitting each group into HLA-DPA1*02:01 positive or negative, in frequent LD with HLA-DPB1 alleles from two of the three TCE groups, or into HLA-DPA1 matched or mismatched, did not significantly alter the observed risk associations. Our findings suggest that the effects of clinically non-permissive HLA-DPB1 TCE group mismatches are independent of HLA-DPA1, and that selection of donors with non-permissive DPB1 TCE mismatches in GvH direction might provide some protection from disease recurrence.
Non-permissive mismatch; HLA-DPB1 T cell epitope matching; Unrelated HCT; relapse; transplant related mortality; HLA-DPA1
CD1c self-reactive T cells recognize a novel class of self-lipids that are accumulated on leukemia cells.
T cells that recognize self-lipids presented by CD1c are frequent in the peripheral blood of healthy individuals and kill transformed hematopoietic cells, but little is known about their antigen specificity and potential antileukemia effects. We report that CD1c self-reactive T cells recognize a novel class of self-lipids, identified as methyl-lysophosphatidic acids (mLPAs), which are accumulated in leukemia cells. Primary acute myeloid and B cell acute leukemia blasts express CD1 molecules. mLPA-specific T cells efficiently kill CD1c+ acute leukemia cells, poorly recognize nontransformed CD1c-expressing cells, and protect immunodeficient mice against CD1c+ human leukemia cells. The identification of immunogenic self-lipid antigens accumulated in leukemia cells and the observed leukemia control by lipid-specific T cells in vivo provide a new conceptual framework for leukemia immune surveillance and possible immunotherapy.
The liver is the current site of choice for pancreatic islet transplantation, even though it is far from being ideal. We recently have shown in mice that the bone marrow (BM) may be a valid alternative to the liver, and here we report a pilot study to test feasibility and safety of BM as a site for islet transplantation in humans. Four patients who developed diabetes after total pancreatectomy were candidates for the autologous transplantation of pancreatic islet. Because the patients had contraindications for intraportal infusion, islets were infused in the BM. In all recipients, islets engrafted successfully as shown by measurable posttransplantation C-peptide levels and histopathological evidence of insulin-producing cells or molecular markers of endocrine tissue in BM biopsy samples analyzed during follow-up. Thus far, we have recorded no adverse events related to the infusion procedure or the presence of islets in the BM. Islet function was sustained for the maximum follow-up of 944 days. The encouraging results of this pilot study provide new perspectives in identifying alternative sites for islet infusion in patients with type 1 diabetes. Moreover, this is the first unequivocal example of successful engraftment of endocrine tissue in the BM in humans.
Human Leukocyte Antigen-G (HLA-G) contributes to cancer cell immune escape from host antitumor responses. The clinical relevance of HLA-G in several malignancies has been reported. However, the role of HLA-G expression and functions in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is still controversial. Our group identified a subset of tolerogenic dendritic cells, DC-10 that express HLA-G and secrete IL-10. DC-10 are present in the peripheral blood and are essential in promoting and maintaining tolerance via the induction of adaptive T regulatory (Treg) cells. We investigated HLA-G expression on blasts and the presence of HLA-G-expressing DC-10 and CD4+ T cells in the peripheral blood of AML patients at diagnosis. Moreover, we explored the possible influence of the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of HLA-G, which has been associated with HLA-G expression, on AML susceptibility. Results showed that HLA-G-expressing DC-10 and CD4+ T cells are highly represented in AML patients with HLA-G positive blasts. None of the HLA-G variation sites evaluated was associated with AML susceptibility. This is the first report describing HLA-G-expressing DC-10 and CD4+ T cells in AML patients, suggesting that they may represent a strategy by which leukemic cells escape the host's immune system. Further studies on larger populations are required to verify our findings.
T-cell therapy after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been used alone or in combination with immunosuppression to cure hematologic malignancies and to prevent disease recurrence. Here, we describe the outcome of patients with high-risk/advanced stage hematologic malignancies, who received T-cell depleted (TCD) haploidentical-HSCT (haplo-HSCT) combined with donor T lymphocytes pretreated with IL-10 (ALT-TEN trial). IL-10-anergized donor T cells (IL-10-DLI) contained T regulatory type 1 (Tr1) cells specific for the host alloantigens, limiting donor-vs.-host-reactivity, and memory T cells able to respond to pathogens. IL-10-DLI were infused in 12 patients with the goal of improving immune reconstitution after haplo-HSCT without increasing the risk of graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD). IL-10-DLI led to fast immune reconstitution in five patients. In four out of the five patients, total T-cell counts, TCR-Vβ repertoire and T-cell functions progressively normalized after IL-10-DLI. These four patients are alive, in complete disease remission and immunosuppression-free at 7.2 years (median follow-up) after haplo-HSCT. Transient GvHD was observed in the immune reconstituted (IR) patients, despite persistent host-specific hypo-responsiveness of donor T cells in vitro and enrichment of cells with Tr1-specific biomarkers in vivo. Gene-expression profiles of IR patients showed a common signature of tolerance. This study provides the first indication of the feasibility of Tr1 cell-based therapy and paves way for the use of these Tr1 cells as adjuvant treatment for malignancies and immune-mediated disorders.
hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; haploidentical; IL-10; T regulatory type 1 cells; cell therapy; tolerance
Cell-surface CD25 expression is critical for maintaining immune function and homeostasis. As in few reported cases, CD25 deficiency manifests with severe autoimmune enteritis and viral infections. To dissect the underlying immunological mechanisms driving these symptoms, we analyzed the regulatory and effector T cell functions in a CD25 deficient patient harboring a novel IL2RA mutation. Pronounced lymphoproliferation, mainly of the CD8+ T cells, was detected together with an increase in T cell activation markers and elevated serum cytokines. However, Ag-specific responses were impaired in vivo and in vitro. Activated CD8+STAT5+ T cells with lytic potential infiltrated the skin, even though FOXP3+ Tregs were present and maintained a higher capacity to respond to IL-2 compared to other T-cell subsets. Thus, the complex pathogenesis of CD25 deficiency provides invaluable insight into the role of IL2/IL-2RA-dependent regulation in autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases.
► CD25 deficiency leads to profound immune dysregulation. ► Preferential CD8+ T cell expansion and high cytokine serum levels were present. ► Proliferating CD8+ T cells infiltrated the skin but failed to respond to pathogens. ► CD4+FOXP3+CD127lowCD25null Tregs could be detected. ► Altered IL2 signaling events and failure of IL2 consumption contribute to autoimmunity.
CD25;; IPEX-like;; Immunodeficiency;; Autoimmunity;; Tregs;; IL-2
The aim of this study was to perform a longitudinal assessment using Quantitative Muscle Testing (QMT) in a cohort of ambulant boys affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and to correlate the results of QMT with functional measures. This study is to date the most thorough long-term evaluation of QMT in a cohort of DMD patients correlated with other measures, such as the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) or thee 6-min walk test (6MWT).
This is a single centre, prospective, non-randomised, study assessing QMT using the Kin Com® 125 machine in a study cohort of 28 ambulant DMD boys, aged 5 to 12 years. This cohort was assessed longitudinally over a 12 months period of time with 3 monthly assessments for QMT and with assessment of functional abilities, using the NSAA and the 6MWT at baseline and at 12 months only. QMT was also used in a control group of 13 healthy age-matched boys examined at baseline and at 12 months.
There was an increase in QMT over 12 months in boys below the age of 7.5 years while in boys above the age of 7.5 years, QMT showed a significant decrease. All the average one-year changes were significantly different than those experienced by healthy controls. We also found a good correlation between quantitative tests and the other measures that was more obvious in the stronger children.
Our longitudinal data using QMT in a cohort of DMD patients suggest that this could be used as an additional tool to monitor changes, providing additional information on segmental strength.
Seven patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and two patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) were transplanted from HLA-identical sibling donors with CD34+ cell-enriched stem cells (HSCTs) without further immunosuppression. The myeloablative standard transplantation protocol was adapted to include transfusion of gene-modified donor T cells after HSCT. Donor T cells were transduced with the replication-deficient retrovirus SFCMM-3, which expresses herpes simplex thymidine kinase (HSV-Tk) and a truncated version of low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (ΔLNGFR) for selection and characterization of transduced cells. Transduced T cells were detectable in all patients during follow-up for up to 5 years after transfusion. Proteomic screening for development of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGvHD) was applied to five of the seven patients with AML. No positivity for the aGvHD grade II-specific proteomic pattern was observed. Only one patient developed aGvHD grade I. To date, three of the patients with AML relapsed; one responded to three escalating transfusions of lymphocytes from the original donor and is in complete remission. Two were retransplanted with non-T cell-depleted peripheral blood stem cells from their original donors and died after retransplantation of septic complications or relapse, respectively. In one patient with CML, loss of bcr-abl gene expression was observed after an expansion of transduced cells. Seven of nine patients are alive and in complete remission.
Borchers and colleagues provide long-term follow-up data on seven patients with acute myeloid leukemia and two patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia who were transplanted from HLA-identical sibling donors with CD34+ cell-enriched stem cells. Donor-derived retroviral transduced T cells were also infused. The authors report that transduced T cells were detectable in all patients during follow-up for up to 5 years after transfusion. They also use proteomic screening to analyze the development of acute graft-versus-host disease in the research subjects.
Thalassemia is a common disorder worldwide with a predominant incidence in Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. Whilst substantial progress has been made towards the improvement of Health related quality of life (HRQoL) in western countries, scarce evidence-based data exists on HRQol of thalassemia children and adolescents living in developing countries.
We studied 60 thalassemia children from Middle Eastern countries with a median age of 10 years (range 5 to 17 years). HRQoL was assessed with the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) 4.0. The Questionnaire was completed at baseline by all patients and their parents. The agreement between child-self and parent-proxy HRQoL reports and the relationship between HRQoL profiles and socio-demographic and clinical factors were investigated.
The scores of parents were generally lower than those of their children for Emotional Functioning (mean 75 vs 85; p = 0.002), Psychosocial Health Summary (mean 70.3 vs 79.1; p = 0.015) and the Total Summary Score (mean 74.3 vs 77.7 p = 0.047). HRQoL was not associated with ferritin levels, hepatomegaly or frequency of transfusions or iron chelation therapy. Multivariate analysis showed that a delayed start of iron chelation had a negative impact on total PedsQL scores of both children (p = 0.046) and their parents (p = 0.007).
The PedsQL 4.0 is a useful tool for the measurement of HRQoL in pediatric thalassemia patients. This study shows that delayed start of iron chelation has a negative impact on children’s HRQoL.
Quality of life; Thalassemia; PEDsQL 4.0
We exploited the dual positive effects of rapamycin to prevent GvHD and control malignant cells upon infusion of unmanipulated grafts from family haploidentical donors to patients affected by advanced hematological malignancies. Preliminary results on 45 patients show the feasibility of this platform with an appreciable low rate of GvHD.
Stem Cell Transplantation; Haploidentical; Donor Graft
A variety of therapeutic options are now available for advanced renal cell cancer, including antiangiogenic and anti-mTOR agents. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, through its graft-versus-tumor effect, can induce clinical responses and prolonged survival in selected cytokine-refractory patients. However, the still relevant transplant-related mortality due to toxicity and graft-versus-host disease is an obstacle to its widespread use.
Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; advanced renal cell cancer; graft-versus-tumor.
The infusion of donor lymphocytes transduced with a retroviral vector expressing the HSV-TK suicide gene in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for leukemia/lymphoma promotes immune reconstitution and prevents infections and graft-versus-host disease. Analysis of the clonal dynamics of genetically modified lymphocytes in vivo is of crucial importance to understand the potential genotoxic risk of this therapeutic approach. We used linear amplification-mediated PCR and pyrosequencing to build a genome-wide, high-definition map of retroviral integration sites in the genome of peripheral blood T cells from two different donors and used gene expression profiling and bioinformatics to associate integration clusters to transcriptional activity and to genetic and epigenetic features of the T cell genome. Comparison with matched random controls and with integrations obtained from CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells showed that integration clusters occur within chromatin regions bearing epigenetic marks associated with active promoters and regulatory elements in a cell-specific fashion. Analysis of integration sites in T cells obtained ex vivo two months after infusion showed no evidence of integration-related clonal expansion or dominance, but rather loss of cells harboring integration events interfering with RNA post-transcriptional processing. The study shows that high-definition maps of retroviral integration sites are a powerful tool to analyze the fate of genetically modified T cells in patients and the biological consequences of retroviral transduction.
Neurotoxicity is a recognized complication of cyclosporine A (CSA) treatment. The incidence of severe CSA-related neurological complications following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is 4-11%.
We describe 6 cases of CSA related neurotoxicity out of 67 matched related HSCT performed in paediatric Middle East patients affected by haemoglobinopaties (5 beta thalassemia major, 1 sickle cell disease-SCD). Conditioning regimen consisted of iv busulphan, cyclophosphamide and graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD) prophylaxis with CSA, methylprednisolone, methotrexate and ATG.
All 6 patients presented prodromes such as arterial hypertension, headache, visual disturbances and vomiting, one to two days before overt CSA neurotoxicity. CSA neurotoxicity consisted of generalized seizures, signs of endocranial hypertension and visual disturbances at a median day of onset of 11 days after HSCT (range +1 to +40). Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed in all subjects showed reversible leukoencephalopathy predominantly in the posterior regions of the brain (PRES) in 5/6 patients. EEG performed in 5/6 patients was always abnormal. Neurotoxicity was not explainable by high CSA blood levels, as all patients had CSA in the therapeutic range with a median of 178 ng/ml (range 69-250). CSA was promptly stopped and switched to tacrolimus with disappearance of clinical and radiological findings. All patients are symptoms-free at a median follow up of 882 days (range 60-1065).
Our experience suggests that paediatric patients with haemoglobinopaties have a high incidence of CSA related neurological events with no correlation between serum CSA levels and neurotoxicity. Prognosis is good following CSA removal. Specific prodromes such as arterial hypertension, headache or visual disturbances occurring in the early post-transplant period should be carefully evaluated with electrophysiological and MRI-based imaging in order to intervene promptly and avoid irreversible sequels.
The exploitation of the physiologic processing and presenting machinery of DCs by in vivo loading of tumor-associated antigens may improve the immunogenic potential and clinical efficacy of DC-based cancer vaccines. Here we show that lymphocytes genetically modified to express self/tumor antigens, acting as antigen carriers, efficiently target DCs in vivo in tumor-bearing mice. The infusion of tyrosinase-related protein 2–transduced (TRP-2–transduced) lymphocytes induced the establishment of protective immunity and long-term memory in tumor-bearing mice. Analysis of the mechanism responsible for the induction of such an immune response allowed us to demonstrate that cross-presentation of the antigen mediated by the CD11c+CD8α+ DC subset had occurred. Furthermore, we demonstrated in vivo and in vitro that DCs had undergone activation upon phagocytosis of genetically modified lymphocytes, a process mediated by a cell-to-cell contact mechanism independent of CD40 triggering. Targeting and activation of secondary lymphoid organ–resident DCs endowed antigen-specific T cells with full effector functions, which ultimately increased tumor growth control and animal survival in a therapeutic tumor setting. We conclude that the use of transduced lymphocytes represents an efficient method for the in vivo loading of tumor-associated antigens on DCs.