Mycosis fungoides (MF) and the leukemic presentation Sézary syndrome (SS) are clonal T cell lymphomas arising from the skin and are considered noncurable with standard therapies. To develop a specific and sensitive monitoring tool, we tested the ability of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of T cell receptors (TCRB) to monitor minimal residual disease (MRD) after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) or skin samples. The rearranged TCR? loci were amplified using V?- and J?-specific primers, followed by HTS, to generate up to 1,000,000 reads spanning the CDR3 region of individual cells. Malignant clones were identified in diagnostic samples in all cases by a dominant CDR3 sequence. Before transplant, four patients had circulating Sézary cells by the routine flow cytometry, which was confirmed by TCRB HTS. Although the flow cytometry found no detectable Sézary cells, malignant clones were detected by TCRB HTS in all other six cases. Five patients achieved "molecular remission" in blood between +30 and +540 days after transplant. Four of these patients also achieved molecular clearance in skin after transplant. Experiments using blood samples spiked with purified Sézary cells demonstrated that TCRB HTS can detect Sézary cells at the level of 1 in 50,000 PBMCs, which is more sensitive than standard diagnostics. We have thus demonstrated the utility of TCRB HTS to assess MRD with increased sensitivity and specificity compared to other current methodologies, and to monitor response to therapy in this MF/SS patient population.
The primary cause of poor outcome following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is disease recurrence. Detection of increasing minimal residual disease (MRD) following HCT may permit early intervention to prevent clinical relapse; however, MRD quantification remains an uncommon diagnostic test because of logistical and financial barriers to widespread use. Here we describe a method for quantifying CLL MRD using widely available consensus primers for amplification of all Ig heavy chain (IGH) genes in a mixture of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, followed by high-throughput sequencing (HTS) for disease-specific IGH sequence quantification. To achieve accurate MRD quantification, we developed a systematic bioinformatic methodology to aggregate cancer clone sequence variants arising from systematic and random artifacts occurring during IGH-HTS. We then compared the sensitivity of IGH-HTS, flow cytometry, and allele-specific oligonucleotide PCR for MRD quantification in 28 samples collected from 6 CLL patients following allogeneic HCT. Using amplimer libraries generated with consensus primers from patient blood samples, we demonstrate the sensitivity of IGH-HTS with 454 pyrosequencing to be 10(-5), with a high correlation between quantification by allele-specific oligonucleotide PCR and IGH-HTS (r = 0.85). From the same dataset used to quantify MRD, IGH-HTS also allowed us to profile IGH repertoire reconstitution after HCT-information not provided by the other MRD methods. IGH-HTS using consensus primers will broaden the availability of MRD quantification in CLL and other B cell malignancies, and this approach has potential for quantitative evaluation of immune diversification following transplant and nontransplant therapies.
Donor leukocyte infusions induce remissions in some patients with hematologic malignancies who relapse after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT); however, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains the major complication of this strategy. Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells are a unique population of cytotoxic T lymphocytes that express the CD3(+)CD56(+) phenotype and show marked up-regulation of the natural killer cell receptor NKG2D (CD314). CIK cells are non-major histocompatibility complex-restricted and NKG2D-dependent in target recognition and cytotoxicity. We explored the feasibility of ex vivo expansion of allogeneic CIK cells in patients with relapsed hematologic malignancies after allogeneic HCT. Eighteen patients (median age, 53 years; range, 20-69 years) received CIK cell infusions at escalating doses of 1 × 10(7) CD3(+) cells/kg (n = 4), 5 × 10(7) CD3(+) cells/kg (n = 6), and 1 × 10(8) CD3(+) cells/kg (n = 8). The median expansion of CD3(+) cells was 12-fold (range, 4- to 91-fold). CD3(+)CD56(+) cells represented a median of 11% (range, 4%-44%) of the harvested cells, with a median 31-fold (range, 7- to 515-fold) expansion. Median CD3(+)CD314(+) cell expression was 53% (range, 32%-78%) of harvested cells. Significant cytotoxicity was demonstrated in vitro against a panel of human tumor cell lines. Acute GVHD grade I-II was seen in 2 patients, and 1 patient had limited chronic GVHD. After a median follow-up of 20 months (range, 1-69 months) from CIK infusion, the median overall survival was 28 months, and the median event-free survival was 4 months. All deaths were due to relapsed disease; however, 5 patients had longer remissions after infusion of CIK cells than from allogeneic HCT to relapse. Our findings indicate that this form of adoptive immunotherapy is well tolerated and induces a low incidence of GVHD, supporting further investigation as an upfront modality to enhance graft-versus-tumor responses in high-risk patient populations.
Identifying the targets of immune response after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) promises to provide relevant immune therapy candidate proteins. We used protein microarrays to serologically identify nucleolar and spindle-associated protein 1 (NuSAP1) and chromatin assembly factor 1, subunit B (p60; CHAF1b) as targets of new antibody responses that developed after allogeneic HCT. Western blots and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) validated their post-HCT recognition and enabled ELISA testing of 120 other patients with various malignancies who underwent allo-HCT. CHAF1b-specific antibodies were predominantly detected in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), whereas NuSAP1-specific antibodies were exclusively detected in patients with AML 1 year after transplantation (P < .001). Complete genomic exon sequencing failed to identify a nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) for NuSAP1 and CHAF1b between the donor and recipient cells. Expression profiles and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed NuSAP1 was predominately expressed in the bone marrow CD34(+)CD90(+) hematopoietic stem cells, leukemic cell lines, and B lymphoblasts compared with other tissues or cells. Thus, NuSAP1 is recognized as an immunogenic antigen in 65% of patients with AML following allogeneic HCT and suggests a tumor antigen role.
Sézary syndrome (SS) is an aggressive cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) of unknown etiology in which malignant cells circulate in the peripheral blood. To identify viral elements, gene fusions, and gene expression patterns associated with this lymphoma, flow cytometry was used to obtain matched pure populations of malignant Sézary cells (SCs) versus nonmalignant CD4(+) T cells from 3 patients for whole transcriptome, paired-end sequencing with an average depth of 112 million reads per sample. Pathway analysis of differentially expressed genes identified mis-regulation of PI3K/Akt, TGF?, and NF-?B pathways as well as T-cell receptor signaling. Bioinformatic analysis did not detect either nonhuman transcripts to support a viral etiology of SS or recurrently expressed gene fusions, but it did identify 21 SC-associated annotated long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). Transcriptome assembly by multiple algorithms identified 13 differentially expressed unannotated transcripts termed Sézary cell-associated transcripts (SeCATs) that include 12 predicted lncRNAs and a novel transcript with coding potential. High-throughput sequencing targeting the 3 end of polyadenylated transcripts in archived tumors from 24 additional patients with tumor-stage CTCL confirmed the differential expression of SC-associated lncRNAs and SeCATs in CTCL. Our findings characterize the SS transcriptome and support recent reports that implicate lncRNA dysregulation in human malignancies.
Romidepsin is the second histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) approved for the treatment of advanced stages of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Recent in vitro data suggest that HDACis suppress immune function although these findings have not been confirmed in patients. Thus, we serially examined the cellular immune function of eight CTCL patients undergoing treatment with three cycles of romidepsin. We measured the patients natural killer (NK) and dendritic cell (DC) function and performed an in vitro terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay to measure cellular apoptosis. Patients NK cell cytolytic activity decreased from baseline to the third cycle of treatment (P = 0.018) but stimulation with a toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist increased this activity (P = 0.018). At baseline, a TLR agonist could both activate patients DC (P = 0.043) and stimulate interleukin-12 protein production (P = 0.043) but both were suppressed after the first cycle of romidepsin. Finally, we observed increased specificity for romidepsin-induced CD4+ tumor cell apoptosis and dose-dependent increases in cellular apoptosis of healthy cells in multiple lineages (P < 0.05). These findings raise concern that HDACis suppress immune function in CTCL patients and they support the concurrent use of multiple immune stimulatory agents to preserve the host immune response.
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