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Articles by Sophie Paczesny in JoVE

 JoVE Clinical and Translational Medicine

High Throughput Sequential ELISA for Validation of Biomarkers of Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease

1Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, University of Michigan


JoVE 4247

High throughput validation of multiple candidate biomarkers can be performed by sequential ELISA in order to minimize freeze/thaw cycles and use of precious plasma samples. Here, we demonstrate how to sequentially perform ELISAs for six different validated plasma biomarkers1-3 of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)4 on the same plasma sample.

Other articles by Sophie Paczesny on PubMed

Dendritic Cells: Controllers of the Immune System and a New Promise for Immunotherapy

The immune system is controlled by dendritic cells (DCs). Just as lymphocytes comprise different subsets, DCs comprise several subsets that differentially control lymphocyte function. In humans, the myeloid pathway includes Langerhans cells (LCs) and interstitial DCs (intDCs). While both subsets produce IL-12, only intDCs make IL-10 and induce B cell differentiation. Another pathway includes plasmacytoid DCs, which promptly secrete large amounts of IFN-alpha/beta viral encounter. Thus, insights into in vivo DC functions are important to understand the launching and modulation of immunity.

Single Injection of CD34+ Progenitor-derived Dendritic Cell Vaccine Can Lead to Induction of T-cell Immunity in Patients with Stage IV Melanoma

There is evidence that dendritic cell (DC) vaccines induce tumor-specific immune responses that correlate with clinical responses. Little is known, however, about the kinetics of T-cell responses to antigens presented on DC vaccines. The authors vaccinated 18 HLA A*0201+ patients with stage IV melanoma with CD34 HPC-derived DCs pulsed with six antigens: influenza matrix peptide (Flu-MP), KLH, and peptides derived from the four melanoma antigens: MART-1/Melan A, gp100, tyrosinase, and MAGE-3. A single DC vaccination was sufficient for induction of KLH-specific CD4 T-cell responses in five patients and Flu-MP-specific CD8 T-cell responses in eight patients. A single DC vaccine was sufficient for induction of tumor-specific effectors to at least one melanoma antigen in five patients. Thus, a single injection of CD34 HPC-derived DCs can lead to rapid immune response to CD4 epitopes or to melanoma antigens.

Dendritic Cells As Vectors for Immunotherapy of Cancer

Dendritic cells (DCs) initiate and regulate immune responses. Numerous studies in mice showed that tumor antigens-loaded DCs are able to induce therapeutic and protective anti-tumor immunity. The immunogenicity of antigens delivered on DCs has now been demonstrated in cancer patients and some clinical responses without any significant toxicity have been observed. Nevertheless, many parameters of DC vaccination need to be established including: (1) the type of DCs, their maturation stage and stimuli; (2) the quality and the breadth of induced immune responses; (3) host-related factors, such as the extent of metastatic disease and myeloablation; and (4) efficacy as measured by the clinical outcome.

Expansion of Melanoma-specific Cytolytic CD8+ T Cell Precursors in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Vaccinated with CD34+ Progenitor-derived Dendritic Cells

Cancer vaccines aim at inducing (a) tumor-specific effector T cells able to reduce/eliminate the tumor mass, and (b) long-lasting tumor-specific memory T cells able to control tumor relapse. We have shown earlier, in 18 human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*0201 patients with metastatic melanoma, that vaccination with peptide-loaded CD34-dendritic cells (DCs) leads to expansion of melanoma-specific interferon gamma-producing CD8+ T cells in the blood. Here, we show in 9 out of 12 analyzed patients the expansion of cytolytic CD8+ T cell precursors specific for melanoma differentiation antigens. These precursors yield, upon single restimulation with melanoma peptide-pulsed DCs, cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) able to kill melanoma cells. Melanoma-specific CTLs can be grown in vitro and can be detected in three assays: (a) melanoma tetramer binding, (b) killing of melanoma peptide-pulsed T2 cells, and (c) killing of HLA-A*0201 melanoma cells. The cytolytic activity of expanded CTLs correlates with the frequency of melanoma tetramer binding CD8+ T cells. Thus, CD34-DC vaccines can expand melanoma-specific CTL precursors that can kill melanoma antigen-expressing targets. These results justify the design of larger follow-up studies to assess the immunological and clinical response to peptide-pulsed CD34-DC vaccines.

Measuring Melanoma-specific Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes Elicited by Dendritic Cell Vaccines with a Tumor Inhibition Assay in Vitro

Improving cancer vaccines depends on assays measuring elicited tumor-specific T-cell immunity. Cytotoxic effector cells are essential for tumor clearance and are commonly evaluated using 51Cr release from labeled target cells after a short (4 hours) incubation with T cells. The authors used a tumor inhibition assay (TIA) that assesses the capacity of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) to control the survival/growth of EGFP-labeled tumor cell lines. TIA was validated using CD8+ T cells primed in vitro against melanoma and breast cancer cells. TIA was then used to assess the CTL function of cultured CD8+ T cells isolated from patients with metastatic melanoma who underwent vaccination with peptide-pulsed CD34+ HPCs-derived DCs. After the DC vaccination, T cells from six of eight patients yielded CTLs that could inhibit the survival/growth of melanoma cells. The results of TIA correlated with killing of tumor cells in a standard 4-hour 51Cr release assay, yet TIA allowed detection of CTL activities that appeared marginal in the 51Cr release assay. Thus, TIA might prove valuable for measuring spontaneous and induced antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells.

Boosting Vaccinations with Peptide-pulsed CD34+ Progenitor-derived Dendritic Cells Can Expand Long-lived Melanoma Peptide-specific CD8+ T Cells in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma

The immunogenicity of dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccines has been shown in patients with advanced cancer, but it has not yet been established whether the elicited cancer-specific immunity is durable and whether it can be maintained by boosting vaccinations. The authors showed earlier, in 18 HLA-A*0201 metastatic melanoma patients, that four vaccinations over 6 weeks with peptide-loaded CD34-DCs (the induction phase) expand in the blood melanoma-specific CD8+ T cells, as documented by melanoma peptide-specific IFN-gamma ELISPOT and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) activity against melanoma cell lines. The authors show here that the melanoma peptide-specific CD8+ T-cell immunity is short-lived, but it could be reactivated in 7 of 11 patients who received four boosting vaccinations with peptide-loaded CD34-DCs. Expansion of recall memory CD8+ T cells was confirmed by tetramer binding and CTL activity against melanoma peptide-pulsed T2 cells. In two patients boosted over 15 months, induced melanoma peptide-specific recall memory CD8+ T cells lasted at least 6 months. Thus, boosting vaccination with peptide-loaded CD34-DCs can expand long-lived tumor peptide-specific immunity.

Immunotherapy Via Dendritic Cells

The immune system evolved to protect us from microbes. The antigen (Ag)-nonspecific innate immunity and Ag-specific adaptive immunity synergize to eradicate the invading pathogen through cells, such as dendritic cells (DCZ7) and lymphocytes, and through their effector proteins including antimicrobial peptides, complement, and antibodies. Its intrinsic complexity renders the immune system prone to dysfunction including cancer, autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and allergy. DCs are unique in their capacity to induce and regulate immune responses and are therefore attractive candidates for immunotherapy. However, DCs consist of distinct subsets with common as well as unique functions that lead to distinct types of immune responses. Therefore, understanding DC heterogeneity and their role in immunopathology is critical to design better strategies for immunotherapy. Indeed, what we learn from studying autoimmunity will help us induce strong vaccine specific immunity, either protective, as in the case of microbes, or therapeutic, as in the case of tumors.

Spontaneous Proliferation and Type 2 Cytokine Secretion by CD4+T Cells in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Vaccinated with Antigen-pulsed Dendritic Cells

We observed the induction of spontaneous, i.e., without adding exogenous antigen, in vitro proliferation of PBMCs from patients with stage IV melanoma who underwent repeated vaccinations with antigen-loaded dendritic cells (DCs) derived from CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitors (CD34-DCs). Proliferating cells are CD4(+)T cells. Their proliferation is dependent on (1) CD11c(+) myeloid DCs, since their depletion from PBMCs abolishes it; and (2) IL-2, as it can be blocked by neutralizing anti-IL-2 antibodies. Spontaneous proliferation is associated to the secretion of type 2 cytokines. To analyze the frequency of spontaneous proliferation induction in the cohort of 18 vaccinated patients, an index of spontaneous proliferation was defined as a ratio of PBMCs proliferation from post- vs pre-DC vaccination blood samples. Ten out of sixteen analyzed patients showed an index > 2. The index of spontaneous proliferation correlates with antigen-specific PBMC proliferation to the vaccine antigen KLH. Furthermore, both spontaneous- and antigen-specific proliferation in PBMC cultures are dependent on blood myeloid DCs.

Long-term Outcomes in Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Vaccinated with Melanoma Peptide-pulsed CD34(+) Progenitor-derived Dendritic Cells

Between March 1999 and May 2000, 18 HLA-A*0201(+) patients with metastatic melanoma were enrolled in a phase I trial using a dendritic cell (DC) vaccine generated by culturing CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitors. This vaccine includes Langerhans cells. The DC vaccine was loaded with four melanoma peptides (MART-1/MelanA, tyrosinase, MAGE-3, and gp100), Influenza matrix peptide (Flu-MP), and keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH). Ten patients received eight vaccinations, one patient received six vaccinations, one patient received five vaccinations, and six patients received four vaccinations. Peptide-specific immunity was measured by IFN-gamma production and tetramer staining in blood mononuclear cells. The estimated median overall survival was 20 months (range: 2-83), and the median event-free survival was 7 months (range: 2-83). As of August 2005, four patients are alive (three patients had M1a disease and one patient had M1c disease). Three of them have had no additional therapy since trial completion; two of them had solitary lymph node metastasis, and one patient had liver metastasis. Patients who survived longer were those who mounted melanoma peptide-specific immunity to at least two melanoma peptides. The present results therefore justify the design of larger follow-up studies to assess the immunological and clinical outcomes in patients with metastatic melanoma vaccinated with peptide-pulsed CD34-derived DCs.

Efficient Generation of CD34+ Progenitor-derived Dendritic Cells from G-CSF-mobilized Peripheral Mononuclear Cells Does Not Require Hematopoietic Stem Cell Enrichment

As a result of their potent antigen-presentation function, dendritic cells (DC) are important tools for cell therapy programs. In vitro-generated DC from enriched CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells (HSC; enriched CD34 DC) have already proven their efficiency in Phase I/II clinical trials. Here, we investigated whether enrichment of CD34+ HSC before the onset of culture was absolutely required for their differentiation into DC. With this aim, we developed a new two-step culture method. PBMC harvested from G-CSF-mobilized, healthy patients were expanded for 7 days during the first step, with early acting cytokines, such as stem cell factor, fetal liver tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt-3L), and thrombopoietin. During the second step, expanded cells were then induced to differentiate into mature DC in the presence of GM-CSF, Flt-3L, and TNF-alpha for 8 days, followed by LPS exposure for 2 additional days. Our results showed that the rate of CD34+/CD38+/lineageneg cells increased 19.5+/-10-fold (mean+/-sd) during the first step, and the expression of CD14, CD1a, CD86, CD80, and CD83 molecules was up-regulated markedly following the second step. When compared with DC generated from enriched CD34+ cells, which were expanded for 7 days before differentiation, DC derived from nonenriched peripheral blood stem cells showed a similar phenotye but higher yields of production. Accordingly, the allogeneic stimulatory capacity of the two-step-cultured DC was as at least as efficient as that of enriched CD34 DC. In conclusion, we report herein a new two-step culture method that leads to high yields of mature DC without any need of CD34+ HSC enrichment.

Etanercept Plus Methylprednisolone As Initial Therapy for Acute Graft-versus-host Disease

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a principal cause of morbidity following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Standard therapy for GVHD, high-dose steroids, results in complete responses (CRs) in 35% of patients. Because tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) is an important effector of experimental GVHD, we treated patients with new-onset GVHD with steroids plus the TNFalpha inhibitor etanercept on a previously reported pilot trial (n = 20) and a phase 2 trial (n = 41). We compared their outcomes with those of contemporaneous patients with GVHD (n = 99) whose initial therapy was steroids alone. Groups were similar with respect to age, conditioning, donor, degree of HLA match, and severity of GVHD at onset. Patients treated with etanercept were more likely to achieve CR than were patients treated with steroids alone (69% vs 33%; P < .001). This difference was observed in HCT recipients of both related donors (79% vs 39%; P = .001) and unrelated donors (53% vs 26%; P < .001). Plasma TNFR1 levels, a biomarker for GVHD activity, were elevated at GVHD onset and decreased significantly only in patients with CR. We conclude that etanercept plus steroids as initial therapy for acute GVHD results in a substantial majority of CRs. This trial was referenced at www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00141713.

Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells License Adult CD34+ Hemopoietic Progenitor Cells to Differentiate into Regulatory Dendritic Cells Through Activation of the Notch Pathway

The mechanisms underlying the immunomodulatory functions of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) on dendritic cells (DC) have been shown to involve soluble factors, such as IL-6 or TGF-beta, or cell-cell contact, or both depending on the report referenced. In this study, we intend to clarify these mechanisms by examining the immunosuppressive effect of human adult MSC on adult DC differentiated from CD34(+) hemopoietic progenitor cells (HPC). MSC have been shown to inhibit interstitial DC differentiation from monocytes and umbilical CD34(+) HPC. In this study, we confirm that MSC not only halt interstitial DC but also Langerhans cell differentiation from adult CD34(+) HPC, as assessed by the decreased expression of CD1a, CD14, CD86, CD80, and CD83 Ags on their cell surface. Accordingly, the functional capacity of CD34(+) HPC-derived DC (CD34-DC) to stimulate alloreactive T cells was impaired. Furthermore, we showed that 1) MSC inhibited commitment of CD34(+) HPC into immature DC, but not maturation of CD34-DC, 2) this inhibitory effect was reversible, and 3) DC generated in coculture with MSC (MSC-DC) induced the generation of alloantigen-specific regulatory T cells following secondary allostimulation. Conditioned medium from MSC cultures showed some inhibitory effect independent of IL-6, M-CSF, and TGF-beta. In comparison, direct coculture of MSC with CD34(+) HPC resulted in much stronger immunosuppressive effect and led to an activation of the Notch pathway as assessed by the overexpression of Hes1 in MSC-DC. Finally, DAPT, a gamma-secretase inhibitor that inhibits Notch signaling, was able to overcome MSC-DC defects. In conclusion, our data suggest that MSC license adult CD34(+) HPC to differentiate into regulatory DC through activation of the Notch pathway.

Plasma Proteome Profiling of a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer Identifies a Set of Up-regulated Proteins in Common with Human Breast Cancer Cells

We have applied an in-depth quantitative proteomic approach, combining isotopic labeling extensive intact protein separation and mass spectrometry, for high confidence identification of protein changes in plasmas from a mouse model of breast cancer. We hypothesized that a wide spectrum of proteins may be up-regulated in plasma with tumor development and that comparisons with proteins expressed in human breast cancer cell lines may identify a subset of up-regulated proteins in common with proteins expressed in breast cancer cell lines that may represent candidate biomarkers for breast cancer. Plasma from PyMT transgenic tumor-bearing mice and matched controls were obtained at two time points during tumor growth. A total of 133 proteins were found to be increased by 1.5-fold or greater at one or both time points. A comparison of this set of proteins with published findings from proteomic analysis of human breast cancer cell lines yielded 49 proteins with increased levels in mouse plasma that were identified in breast cancer cell lines. Pathway analysis comparing the subset of up-regulated proteins known to be expressed in breast cancer cell lines with other up-regulated proteins indicated a cancer related function for the former and a host-response function for the latter. We conclude that integration of proteomic findings from mouse models of breast cancer and from human breast cancer cell lines may help identify a subset of proteins released by breast cancer cells into the circulation and that occur at increased levels in breast cancer.

Change in Plasma Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor 1 Levels in the First Week After Myeloablative Allogeneic Transplantation Correlates with Severity and Incidence of GVHD and Survival

Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a significant cause of mortality after hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) mediates GVHD by amplifying donor immune responses to host tissues and by direct toxicity to target organs. We measured TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) as a surrogate marker for TNF-alpha in 438 recipients of myeloablative HCT before transplantation and at day 7 after transplantation. Increases in TNFR1 levels more than or equal to 2.5 baseline correlated with eventual development of GVHD grade 2 to 4 (58% vs 32%, P < .001) and with treatment-related mortality (39% vs 17%, P < .001). In a multivariate analysis including age, degree of HLA match, donor type, recipient and donor sex, disease, and status at HCT, the increase in TNFR1 level at day 7 remained a significant predictor for outcome. Measurement of TNFR1 levels early after transplantation provides independent information in advance of important clinical outcomes, such as GVHD and death.

Plasma Elevations of Tumor Necrosis Factor-receptor-1 at Day 7 Postallogeneic Transplant Correlate with Graft-versus-host Disease Severity and Overall Survival in Pediatric Patients

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is known to play a role in the pathogenesis of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a cause of significant morbidity and treatment-related mortality (TRM) after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT). We measured the concentration of TNF-Receptor-1 (TNFR1) in the plasma of HCT recipients as a surrogate marker for TNF-alpha both prior to transplant and at day 7 in 82 children who underwent a myeloablative allogeneic HCT at the University of Michigan between 2000 and 2005. GVHD grade II-IV developed in 39% of patients at a median of 20 days after HCT. Increases in TNFR1 level at day 7 post-HCT, expressed as ratios compared to pretransplant baseline, correlated with the severity of GVHD (P = .02). In addition, day 7 TNFR1 ratios >2.5 baseline were associated with inferior 1-year overall survival (OS 51% versus 74%, P = .04). As an individual biomarker, TNFR1 lacks sufficient precision to be used as a predictor for the development of GVHD. However, increases in the concentration of TNFR1, which are detectable up to 2 weeks in advance of clinical manifestations of GVHD, correlate with survival in pediatric HCT patients.

A Biomarker Panel for Acute Graft-versus-host Disease

No validated biomarkers exist for acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We screened plasma with antibody microarrays for 120 proteins in a discovery set of 42 patients who underwent transplantation that revealed 8 potential biomarkers for diagnostic of GVHD. We then measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) the levels of these biomarkers in samples from 424 patients who underwent transplantation randomly divided into training (n = 282) and validation (n = 142) sets. Logistic regression analysis of these 8 proteins determined a composite biomarker panel of 4 proteins (interleukin-2-receptor-alpha, tumor-necrosis-factor-receptor-1, interleukin-8, and hepatocyte growth factor) that optimally discriminated patients with and without GVHD. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve distinguishing these 2 groups in the training set was 0.91 (95% confidence interval, 0.87-0.94) and 0.86 (95% confidence interval, 0.79-0.92) in the validation set. In patients with GVHD, Cox regression analysis revealed that the biomarker panel predicted survival independently of GVHD severity. A panel of 4 biomarkers can confirm the diagnosis of GVHD in patients at onset of clinical symptoms of GVHD and provide prognostic information independent of GVHD severity.

Plasma Biomarkers in Graft-versus-host Disease: a New Era?

Acute graft versus host disease (GVHD) remains a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). The diagnosis of acute GVHD is based on strictly clinical criteria and its severity also determined by these criteria. Currently, there is no validated diagnostic blood test for acute GVHD. This review will summarize proteomics approaches to identify biomarkers for GVHD in the plasma with diagnostic, prognostic and predictive value. If successful, these studies could establish a novel biomarker panel that will contribute important information including long term survival, and that may eventually facilitate therapeutic decisions for allogeneic HCT patients.

Application of Serum Proteomics to the Women's Health Initiative Conjugated Equine Estrogens Trial Reveals a Multitude of Effects Relevant to Clinical Findings

ABSTRACT : BACKGROUND : The availability of serum collections from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) randomized controlled trial provides an opportunity to test the potential of in-depth quantitative proteomics to uncover changes in the serum proteome related to CEE and to assess their relevance to trial findings, including elevations in the risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism and a reduction in fractures. METHODS : Five independent large scale quantitative proteomics analyses were performed, each comparing a set of pooled serum samples collected from 10 subjects, 1 year following initiation of CEE at 0.625 mg/d, relative to their baseline pool. A subset of proteins that exhibited increased levels with CEE by quantitative proteomics was selected for validation studies. RESULTS : Of 611 proteins quantified based on differential stable isotope labeling, the levels of 116 (19%) were changed after 1 year of CEE (nominal P < 0.05), while 64 of these had estimated false discovery rates <0.05. Most of the changed proteins were not previously known to be affected by CEE and had relevance to processes that included coagulation, metabolism, osteogenesis, inflammation, and blood pressure maintenance. To validate quantitative proteomic data, 14 proteins were selected for ELISA. Findings for ten - IGF1, IGFBP4, IGFBP1, IGFBP2, F10, AHSG, GC, CP, MMP2, and PROZ - were confirmed in the initial set of 50 subjects and further validated in an independent set of 50 additional subjects who received CEE. CONCLUSIONS : CEE affected a substantial fraction of the serum proteome, including proteins with relevance to findings from the WHI CEE trial related to cardiovascular disease and fracture. CLINICAL TRIALS REGISTRATION : ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00000611.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Treatment and Prevention of Graft-versus-host Disease After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) is an effective therapy for hematological malignancies and inherited diseases. However, acute graft-versus-host-disease (aGVHD) is a major life-threatening complication after allo-HCT and there are few therapeutic options for severe steroid-refractory aGVHD. Preliminary studies on co-transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have shown an improvement in or resolution of severe aGVHD. However, the mechanism underlying this immunosuppressive effect has not been elucidated. Most of the data suggest that the immunosuppressive effect involves soluble factors such as IL-6 or TGF-beta as well as cell-cell contact dependence. MSCs interact either directly with T cells or indirectly via other immune cells such as dendritic cells and NK cells. Here we review the immunomodulatory function of MSCs in allo-HCT and their potential usefulness in the treatment or prevention of severe acute GVHD.

Acute Graft-versus-host Disease: New Treatment Strategies

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), despite improvements in our understanding of its pathophysiology as well as the generation of new monoclonal antibodies, immunomodulatory chemotherapy, cellular therapeutics and supportive care. Herein, we review therapies that have proven effective as well as newer agents that have recently improved GVHD response rates and survival following HCT.

Postmenopausal Estrogen and Progestin Effects on the Serum Proteome

Women's Health Initiative randomized trials of postmenopausal hormone therapy reported intervention effects on several clinical outcomes, with some important differences between estrogen alone and estrogen plus progestin. The biologic mechanisms underlying these effects, and these differences, have yet to be fully elucidated.

Frequency of CD4(+)CD25(hi)FOXP3(+) Regulatory T Cells Has Diagnostic and Prognostic Value As a Biomarker for Acute Graft-versus-host-disease

The relationship between regulatory T cells (Tregs) and acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) in clinical allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) recipients is not well established. We conducted a prospective analysis of peripheral blood Tregs as determined by the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(hi)FOXP3(+) lymphocytes in 215 BMT patients. Autologous BMT patients (N = 90) and allogeneic BMT patients without GVHD (N = 65) had similar Treg frequencies, whereas allogeneic patients with GVHD (N = 60) had Treg frequencies that were 40% less than those without GVHD. Treg frequencies decreased linearly with increasing grades of GVHD at onset, and correlated with eventual maximum grade of GVHD (P < .001). In addition, frequency of Tregs at onset of GVHD predicted the response to GVHD treatment (P = .003). Patients with Treg frequencies less than the median had higher nonrelapse mortality (NRM) than patients with Tregs greater than the median, but experienced equivalent relapse mortality, resulting in an inferior survival at 2 years (38% versus 63%, P = .03). Treg frequency may therefore have important prognostic value as a biomarker of aGVHD.

Elafin is a Biomarker of Graft-versus-host Disease of the Skin

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), the major complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, affects the skin, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. There are no plasma biomarkers specific for any acute GVHD target organ. We used a large-scale quantitative proteomic discovery procedure to identify biomarker candidates of skin GVHD and validated the lead candidate, elafin, with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in samples from 492 patients. Elafin was overexpressed in GVHD skin biopsies. Plasma concentrations of elafin were significantly higher at the onset of skin GVHD, correlated with the eventual maximum grade of GVHD, and were associated with a greater risk of death relative to other known risk factors (hazard ratio, 1.78). We conclude that elafin has significant diagnostic and prognostic value as a biomarker of skin GVHD.

Novel Proteins Associated with Risk for Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke Among Postmenopausal Women Identified by In-depth Plasma Proteome Profiling

Coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke were key outcomes in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) randomized trials of postmenopausal estrogen and estrogen plus progestin therapy. We recently reported a large number of changes in blood protein concentrations in the first year following randomization in these trials using an in-depth quantitative proteomics approach. However, even though many affected proteins are in pathways relevant to the observed clinical effects, the relationships of these proteins to CHD and stroke risk among postmenopausal women remains substantially unknown.

Immunotherapy Through T-cell Receptor Gene Transfer Induces Severe Graft-versus-host Disease

Evaluation of: Bendle GM, Linnemann C, Hooijkaas AI et al.: Lethal graft-versus-host disease in mouse models of T cell receptor gene therapy. Nat. Med. 16(5), 565-570 (2010). Graft-versus-host disease is commonly associated with allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation, as it is the major complication. This article reports that, after immunotherapy with lymphocytes that have been transduced with T-cell receptor (TCR) genes of known specificity, graft-versus-host disease can occur through TCR gene transfer. This autoimmune pathology occurs through the formation of self-reactive TCRs as a result of one chain of the transduced TCR cross-pairing with an endogenous TCR. Certain adjustments in the design of gene therapy vectors may help reduce the risk of such autoimmune phenomena.

Translational Research Efforts in Biomarkers and Biology of Early Transplant-related Complications

In the time since the first allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) was performed over 40 years ago, this life-saving procedure has been used increasingly for patients with hematologic, metabolic, and malignant diseases. Despite major advances in our understanding of the immunologic processes (both beneficial and injurious) that are associated with HSCT and improvements in supportive and critical care medicine, successful outcomes are still limited by several serious complications. As such, the establishment of effective therapeutic strategies for these complications will be crucial as increasing numbers of high-risk transplants are performed each year. The development of such approaches is fundamentally dependent upon a basic understanding of pathophysiologic mechanisms of disease and also on our ability to successfully translate these insights back to the bedside. This brief review will highlight breakthroughs in translational research endeavors that have paved the way for the development of novel strategies intended to change the standard of care and optimize outcomes for patients in whom allogeneic HSCT offers the only hope for a cure.

Clofarabine and Busulfan Conditioning Facilitates Engraftment and Provides Significant Antitumor Activity in Nonremission Hematologic Malignancies

Patients with hematologic malignancies not in remission before allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) have a poor prognosis. To improve the antitumor activity of conditioning, we combined clofarabine with myeloablative doses of busulfan in a phase 1/2 study in nonremission hematologic malignancies. Forty-six patients were enrolled, including 31 patients with nonremission acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Patients had a median age of 53 years, with a median comorbidity index of 3. Donors were unrelated, HLA mismatched, or both in 59% of patients. Common grade III to IV nonhematologic toxicities included transient transaminitis (50%), mucositis (24%), hand-foot syndrome (13%), transient hypoxia (13%), nausea/vomiting (9%), and diarrhea (9%). All patients engrafted. Complete remission was achieved in 80% of all patients by day +30 and in 100% of AML patients without prior hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Two-year nonrelapse mortality for all patients was 31%, and overall survival was 28%. In AML, the overall survival was 48% at 1 year and 35% at 2 years. These data suggest that clofarabine combined with myeloablative doses of busulfan is well tolerated, secures engraftment, and possesses significant antitumor activity, particularly in nonremission AML. This study is registered at www.ClinicalTrials.gov under identifier NCT00556452.

Regenerating Islet-derived 3-alpha is a Biomarker of Gastrointestinal Graft-versus-host Disease

There are no plasma biomarkers specific for GVHD of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the GVHD target organ most associated with nonrelapse mortality (NRM) following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Using an unbiased, large-scale, quantitative proteomic discovery approach to identify candidate biomarkers that were increased in plasma from HCT patients with GI GVHD, 74 proteins were increased at least 2-fold; 5 were of GI origin. We validated the lead candidate, REG3α, by ELISA in samples from 1014 HCT patients from 3 transplantation centers. Plasma REG3α concentrations were 3-fold higher in patients at GI GVHD onset than in all other patients and correlated most closely with lower GI GVHD. REG3α concentrations at GVHD onset predicted response to therapy at 4 weeks, 1-year NRM, and 1-year survival (P ≤ .001). In a multivariate analysis, advanced clinical stage, severe histologic damage, and high REG3α concentrations at GVHD diagnosis independently predicted 1-year NRM, which progressively increased with higher numbers of onset risk factors present: 25% for patients with 0 risk factors to 86% with 3 risk factors present (P < .001). REG3α is a plasma biomarker of GI GVHD that can be combined with clinical stage and histologic grade to improve risk stratification of patients.

Role of Cytokines in the Pathophysiology of Acute Graft-versus-host Disease (GVHD): Are Serum/plasma Cytokines Potential Biomarkers for Diagnosis of Acute GVHD Following Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (Allo-HCT)?

Due to the advent of less-toxic reduced intensity conditioning regimens (RIT), allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) is currently widely used to treat chemotherapy-resistant hematological diseases, particularly in older patients,which are the fastest growing group of patients receiving allo-HCT. However, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is still the major complication after allo-HCT, causing immune deficiency, infection, organ damage, and occasionally patient death. Mortality from GVHD is in part attributed to the difficulty in making accurate diagnosis and determining the optimal timing for appropriate treatment. The diagnosis of acute GVHD is dependent on clinical features and is sometimes indistinguishable from other causes and requires invasive procedures. Therefore, non-invasive, diagnostic and predictive monitoring tools, such as plasma/serum biomarkers, are needed. Determination of the roles of cytokines in the physiopathology of acute GVHD has provided an explanation for many preclinical and clinical observations. However, measurement of a single cytokine lacks specificity for GVHD diagnosis. Therefore, comprehensive assessment of plasma/serum cytokine concentrations is required to identify a panel of biomarkers with good specificity and sensitivity for GVHD. In this review, we summarize the roles of individual cytokines in the pathophysiology of acute GVHD and discuss the possibility of cytokines as biomarkers of acute GVHD after allo-HCT.

Clinical Applications for Biomarkers of Acute and Chronic Graft-versus-host Disease

Acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD, cGVHD) are serious complications of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. The complex pathophysiology of these disease processes is associated with immune system activation, the release of cytokines and chemokines, and alterations in cell populations. The blood levels of specific protein and cellular levels in patients with GVHD have correlated with the development, diagnosis, and prognosis of GVHD. Here, we review the most promising biomarkers for aGVHD and cGVHD with clinical relevance. The utility of GVHD biomarkers in clinical care of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation recipients needs to be proven through clinical trials, and potential approaches to trial design are discussed.

Plasma Biomarkers of Lower Gastrointestinal and Liver Acute GVHD

The lower gastrointestinal tract (LGI) and liver are the GVHD target organs most associated with treatment failure and nonrelapse mortality. We recently identified regenerating islet-derived 3-α (REG3α) as a plasma biomarker of LGI GVHD. We compared REG3α with 2 previously reported GI and liver GVHD diagnostic biomarkers, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and cytokeratin fragment 18, in 954 hematopoietic cell transplantation patients. All 3 biomarkers were significantly elevated in LGI GVHD compared with non-GVHD diarrhea; REG3α discerned LGI GVHD from non-GVHD diarrhea better than HGF and cytokeratin fragment 18. Although all 3 biomarkers predicted nonresponse to therapy at day 28 in LGI GVHD patients, only REG3α and HGF concentrations predicted 1-year nonrelapse mortality (P = .01 and P = .02, respectively). Liver GVHD without GI involvement at GVHD onset and non-GVHD liver complications were uncommon; all 3 biomarkers were elevated in liver GVHD, but did not distinguish GVHD from other causes of hyperbilirubinemia.

Acute Graft-versus-host Disease Biomarkers Measured During Therapy Can Predict Treatment Outcomes: a Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network Study

Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is the primary limitation of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation, and once it develops, there are no reliable diagnostic tests to predict treatment outcomes. We hypothesized that 6 previously validated diagnostic biomarkers of GVHD (IL-2 receptor-α; tumor necrosis factor receptor-1; hepatocyte growth factor; IL-8; elafin, a skin-specific marker; and regenerating islet-derived 3-α, a gastrointestinal tract-specific marker) could discriminate between therapy responsive and nonresponsive patients and predict survival in patients receiving GVHD therapy. We measured GVHD biomarker concentrations from samples prospectively obtained at the initiation of treatment, day 14, and day 28, on a multicenter, randomized, 4-arm phase 2 clinical trial for newly diagnosed acute GVHD. We found that at each of 3 time points, GVHD onset, 2 weeks into treatment, and 4 weeks into treatment, a 6-protein biomarker panel predicted for the important clinical outcomes of day 28 posttherapy nonresponse and mortality at day 180 from onset. GVHD biomarker panels can be used for early identification of patients at high or low risk for treatment nonresponsiveness or death, and they may provide opportunities for early intervention and improved survival after hematopoietic cell transplantation. The study was registered in clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00224874.

TNF-Inhibition with Etanercept for Graft-versus-Host Disease Prevention in High-Risk HCT: Lower TNFR1 Levels Correlate with Better Outcomes

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) causes most non-relapse mortality (NRM) after alternative donor (unrelated and mismatched related) hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT). We previously showed that increases in day +7 TNF-receptor-1 (TNFR1) ratios (posttransplantation day +7/pretransplantation baseline) after myeloablative HCT correlate with outcomes including GVHD, NRM, and survival. Therefore, we conducted a phase II trial at 2 centers, testing whether the addition of the TNF-inhibitor etanercept (25 mg twice weekly from start of conditioning to day +56) to standard GVHD prophylaxis would lower TNFR1 levels, reduce GVHD rates, and improve NRM and survival. Patients underwent myeloablative HCT from a matched unrelated donor (URD; N = 71), 1-antigen mismatched URD (N = 26), or 1-antigen mismatched related donor (N = 3) using either total body irradiation (TBI)-based conditioning (N = 29) or non-TBI-based conditioning (N = 71). Compared to historical controls, the increase in posttransplantation day +7 TNFR1 ratios was not altered in patients who received TBI-based conditioning, but was 40% lower in patients receiving non-TBI-based conditioning. The latter group experienced relatively low rates of severe grade 3 to 4 GVHD (14%), 1-year NRM (16%), and high 1-year survival (69%). These findings suggest that (1) the effectiveness of TNF-inhibition with etanercept may depend on the conditioning regimen, and (2) attenuating the expected rise in TNFR1 levels early posttransplantation correlates with good outcomes.

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