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UCSD cancer researchers develop new anti-leukemia strategy

Cancer researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have developed a 3-step process in which human leukemia cells and neighboring immune-system T cells are manipulated together in the laboratory to create a powerful and specific cancer-killing cocktail. (T cells represent a family of closely related cells of the immune system that circulate in the blood and orchestrate the immune response to infected or malignant cells.)

The details of this approach, generally known as adoptive immunotherapy or cellular therapy, are reported in the October issue of the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

"For reasons that are not yet entirely clear, leukemia cells fail to trigger immune responses," said the paper's senior author, Edward D. Ball, M.D., of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center. "We have developed a method in which we induce the leukemia cell to change its behavior and stimulate the immune system. At the same time, we persuade the immune system to wake up and attack only the leukemia cells."

A team led by Ball, who is also professor of medicine at UCSD School of Medicine and director of the UCSD Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, and the study's first author, project scientist Rui-Kun Zhong, M.D., obtained blood samples from 12 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at the time of diagnosis or relapse. The researchers simply separated out the white cells, which include the AML cells and the T lymphocytes.

"Our goal was to do a minimal amount of manipulation in order to reproduce in the laboratory, as closely as possible, the situation that is occurring in the patient," Ball said.

Then the researchers added certain growth factors, called GM-CSF (granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor) and IL-4 (interleukin-4), to the cell mix, turning the AML cells into strong antigen-presenting cells, called dendritic cells. These surface antigens are like red flags to T cells, stimul
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Contact: Sue Pondrom
spondrom@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
21-Oct-2002


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