The cytotoxic potential of interleukin-15-stimulated cytokine-induced killer cells against leukemia cells

Eva Rettinger, Selim Kuçi, Ivonne Naumann, Petra Becker, Hermann Kreyenberg, Martina Anzaghe, Andre Willasch, Ulrike Koehl, Gesine Bug, Martin Ruthardt, Thomas Klingebiel, Simone Fulda, Peter Bader
Cytotherapy 2012, 14 (1): 91-103

BACKGROUND AIMS: Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells may serve as an alternative approach to adoptive donor lymphocyte infusions (DLI) for patients with acute leukemia relapsing after haplo-identical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). We investigated the feasibility of enhancing CIK cell-mediated cytotoxicity by interleukin (IL)-15 against acute myeloid and lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma cells.

METHODS: CIK cells were activated using IL-2 (CIK(IL-2)) or IL-15 (CIK(IL-15)) and phenotypically analyzed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Cytotoxic potential was measured by europium release assay.

RESULTS: CIK(IL-2) cells showed potent cytotoxicity against the T-lymphoma cell line H9, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cell line MOLT-4 and subtype M4 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell line THP-1, but low cytotoxicity against the precursor B (pB)-cell ALL cell line Tanoue. IL-15 stimulation resulted in a significant enhancement of CIK cell-mediated cytotoxicity against acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma cell lines as well as against primary acute myeloid and defined lymphoblastic leukemia cells. However, the alloreactive potential of CIK(IL-15) cells remained low. Further analysis of CIK(IL-15) cells demonstrated that the NKG2D receptor is apparently involved in the recognition of target cells whereas killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR)-HLA mismatches contributed to a lesser extent to the CIK(IL-15) cell-mediated cytotoxicity. In this context, CD3 (+) CD8 (+) CD25 (+) CD56(-) CIK(IL-15) cell subpopulations were more effective in the lysis of AML cells, in contrast with CD56 (+) CIK(IL-15) cells, which showed the highest cytotoxic potential against ALL cells.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides the first evidence that CIK(IL-15) cells may offer a therapeutic option for patients with refractory or relapsed leukemia following haplo-identical HSCT.

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