Christiansson L, Söderlund S, Svensson E, Mustjoki S, Bengtsson M, Simonsson B, Olsson-Strömberg U, Loskog AS
PLoS ONE 8 (1) e55818 [2013-01-31; online 2013-01-31]
Immunotherapy (eg interferon α) in combination with tyrosine kinase inhibitors is currently in clinical trials for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Cancer patients commonly have problems with so called immune escape mechanisms that may hamper immunotherapy. Hence, to study the function of the immune system in CML is of interest. In the present paper we have identified immune escape mechanisms in CML with focus on those that directly hamper T cells since these cells are important to control tumor progression. CML patient samples were investigated for the presence of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), expression of programmed death receptor ligand 1/programmed death receptor 1 (PD-L1/PD-1), arginase 1 and soluble CD25. MDSC levels were increased in samples from Sokal high risk patients (p<0.05) and the cells were present on both CD34 negative and CD34 positive cell populations. Furthermore, expression of the MDSC-associated molecule arginase 1, known to inhibit T cells, was increased in the patients (p = 0.0079). Myeloid cells upregulated PD-L1 (p<0.05) and the receptor PD-1 was present on T cells. However, PD-L1 blockade did not increase T cell proliferation but upregulated IL-2 secretion. Finally, soluble CD25 was increased in high risk patients (p<0.0001). In conclusion T cells in CML patients may be under the control of different immune escape mechanisms that could hamper the use of immunotherapy in these patients. These escape mechanisms should be monitored in trials to understand their importance and how to overcome the immune suppression.