PD-1hiTIM-3+ T cells associate with and predict leukemia relapse in AML patients post allogeneic stem cell transplantation

Y. Kong, J. Zhang, D. F. Claxton, W. C. Ehmann, W. B. Rybka, L. Zhu, H. Zeng, T. D. Schell, H. Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Prognosis of leukemia relapse post allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) is poor and effective new treatments are urgently needed. T cells are pivotal in eradicating leukemia through a graft versus leukemia (GVL) effect and leukemia relapse is considered a failure of GVL. T-cell exhaustion is a state of T-cell dysfunction mediated by inhibitory molecules including programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) and T-cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain 3 (TIM-3). To evaluate whether T-cell exhaustion and inhibitory pathways are involved in leukemia relapse post alloSCT, we performed phenotypic and functional studies on T cells from peripheral blood of acute myeloid leukemia patients receiving alloSCT. Here we report that PD-1hiTIM-3+ cells are strongly associated with leukemia relapse post transplantation. Consistent with exhaustion, PD-1hiTIM-3+ T cells are functionally deficient manifested by reduced production of interleukin 2 (IL-2), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ). In addition, these cells demonstrate a phenotype consistent with exhausted antigen-experienced T cells by losing TN and TEMRA subsets. Importantly, increase of PD-1hiTIM-3+ cells occurs before clinical diagnosis of leukemia relapse, suggesting their predictive value. Results of our study provide an early diagnostic approach and a therapeutic target for leukemia relapse post transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere330
JournalBlood Cancer Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 31 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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