Image_6_Invariant NKT Cells From Donor Lymphocyte Infusions (DLI-iNKTs) Promote ex vivo Lysis of Leukemic Blasts in a CD1d-Dependent Manner.JPEG

Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) is a curative treatment option for hematologic malignancies but relapse remains the most common cause of death. Infusion of donor lymphocytes (DLIs) can induce remission and prolong survival by exerting graft-vs.-leukemia (GVL) effects. However, sufficient tumor control cannot be established in all patients and occurrence of graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD) prevents further dose escalation. Previous data indicate that invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells promote anti-tumor immunity without exacerbating GVHD. In the present study we investigated lysis of leukemic blasts through iNKT cells from donor-derived lymphocytes for leukemia control and found that iNKT cells constitute about 0.12% of cryopreserved donor T cells. Therefore, we established a 2-week cell culture protocol allowing for a robust expansion of iNKT cells from cryopreserved DLIs (DLI-iNKTs) that can be used for further preclinical and clinical applications. Such DLI-iNKTs efficiently lysed leukemia cell lines and primary patient AML blasts ex vivo in a dose- and CD1d-dependent manner. Furthermore, expression of CD1d on target cells was required to release proinflammatory cytokines and proapoptotic effector molecules. Our results suggest that iNKT cells from donor-derived lymphocytes are involved in anti-tumor immunity after allo-HCT and therefore may reduce the risk of relapse and improve progression-free and overall survival.