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Blood. 2011 Apr 28;117(17):4530-41. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-08-303354. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Combination anti-CD74 (milatuzumab) and anti-CD20 (rituximab) monoclonal antibody therapy has in vitro and in vivo activity in mantle cell lymphoma.

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  • 1Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.


Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive B-cell malignancy with a median survival of 3 years despite chemoimmunotherapy. Rituximab, a chimeric anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody (mAb), has shown only modest activity as single agent in MCL. The humanized mAb milatuzumab targets CD74, an integral membrane protein linked with promotion of B-cell growth and survival, and has shown preclinical activity against B-cell malignancies. Because rituximab and milatuzumab target distinct antigens and potentially signal through different pathways, we explored a preclinical combination strategy in MCL. Treatment of MCL cell lines and primary tumor cells with immobilized milatuzumab and rituximab resulted in rapid cell death, radical oxygen species generation, and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. Cytoskeletal distrupting agents significantly reduced formation of CD20/CD74 aggregates, cell adhesion, and cell death, highlighting the importance of actin microfilaments in rituximab/milatuzumab-mediated cell death. Cell death was independent of caspase activation, Bcl-2 family proteins or modulation of autophagy. Maximal inhibition of p65 nuclear translocation was observed with combination treatment, indicating disruption of the NF-κB pathway. Significant in vivo therapeutic activity of combination rituximab and milatuzumab was demonstrated in a preclinical model of MCL. These data support clinical evaluation of combination milatuzumab and rituximab therapy in MCL.

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