Immunological control may contribute to achievement of deep molecular response in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients on tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy and may promote treatment-free remission (TFR). We investigated effector and suppressor immune responses in CML patients at diagnosis (n = 21), on TKI (imatinib, nilotinib, dasatinib) before achieving major molecular response (pre-MMR, BCR-ABL1 >0.1%, n = 8), MMR (BCR-ABL1 ≤0.1%, n = 20), molecular response4.5 (MR4.5, BCR-ABL1 ≤0.0032%, n = 16), and sustained TFR (BCR-ABL1 undetectable following cessation of TKI therapy, n = 13). Aberrant immune-inhibitory responses (myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), regulatory T cells (Tregs), and programmed death-1 (PD-1) inhibitory molecule expression on CD4+/CD8+ T cells were increased in CML patients at diagnosis. Consequent quantitative and functional defects of innate effector natural killer (NK) cells and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses to leukemia-associated antigens WT1, BMI-1, PR3, and PRAME were observed at diagnosis. Treg and PD-1+CD4+/CD8+ T cells persisted in pre-MMR CML patients on TKI. Patients in MMR and MR4.5 had a more mature, cytolytic CD57+CD62L- NK cell phenotype, consistent with restoration of NK cell activating and inhibitory receptor repertoire to normal healthy donor levels. Immune responses were retained in TFR patients off-therapy, suggesting the restored immune control observed in MMR and MR4.5 is not an entirely TKI-mediated effect. Maximal restoration of immune responses occurred only in MR4.5, as demonstrated by increased NK cell and effector T-cell cytolytic function, reduced T-cell PD-1 expression and reduced numbers of monocytic MDSCs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology