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Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Jan 1;16(1):338-47. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-2046.

K562/GM-CSF immunotherapy reduces tumor burden in chronic myeloid leukemia patients with residual disease on imatinib mesylate.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and St Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland 21231, USA.



Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) can be responsive to T-cell-mediated immunity. K562/granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) is a GM-CSF producing vaccine derived from a CML cell line that expresses several CML-associated antigens. A pilot study was developed to determine if K562/GM-CSF immunotherapy could improve clinical responses to imatinib mesylate (IM) in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.


Patients with chronic phase CML who achieved at least a major cytogeneic response but remained with persistent, measurable disease despite one or more years on imatinib mesylate were eligible. Each was given a series of four vaccines administered in three-week intervals, with or without topical imiquimod, while remaining on a stable dose of imatinib mesylate. CML disease burden was measured serially before and after vaccination.


Nineteen patients were vaccinated, with a median duration of previous imatinib mesylate therapy of 37 (13-53) months. Mean PCR measurements of BCR-ABL for the group declined significantly following the vaccines (P = 0.03). Thirteen patients had a progressive decline in disease burden, 8 of whom had increasing disease burden before vaccination. Twelve patients achieved their lowest tumor burden measurements to date following vaccine, including seven subjects who became PCR-undetectable.


K562/GM-CSF vaccine appears to improve molecular responses in patients on imatinib mesylate, including achieving complete molecular remissions, despite long durations of previous imatinib mesylate therapy.

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