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Protein Eng. 1999 Sep;12(9):779-85.

Targeting myeloid leukemia with a DT(390)-mIL-3 fusion immunotoxin: ex vivo and in vivo studies in mice.

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University of Minnesota Cancer Center, Department of Therapeutic Radiology (Section on Experimental Cancer Immunology) Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The IL-3 receptor was expressed on a high frequency of myeloid leukemia cells and also on hematopoietic and vascular cells. We previously showed that a recombinant IL-3 fusion immunotoxin (DT(390)IL-3) expressed by splicing the murine IL-3 gene to a truncated diphtheria toxin (DT(390)) gene selectively killed IL-3R(+) expressing cells and was not uniformly toxic to uncommitted BM progenitor cells (Chan,C.-H., Blazar,B.R., Greenfield,L., Kreitman,R.J. and Vallera,D.A., 1996, Blood, 88, 1445-1456). Thus, we explored the feasibility of using DT(390)IL-3 as an anti-leukemia agent. DT(390)IL-3 was toxic when administered to mice at doses as low as 0.1 microg/day. The dose limiting toxicity appeared to be related to platelet and bleeding effects of the fusion toxin. Because of these effects, DT(390)IL-3 was studied ex vivo as a means of purging contaminating leukemia cells from BM grafts in a murine autologous BM transplantation. In this setting, as few as 1000 IL-3R-expressing, bcr/abl transformed myeloid 32Dp210 leukemia cells were lethal. An optimal purging interval of 10 nM/l for 8 h eliminated leukemia cells from 32Dp210/BM mixtures given to lethally irradiated (8 Gy) C3H/HeJ syngeneic mice. Mice given treated grafts containing BM and a lethal dose of 32Dp210 cells survived over 100 days while mice given untreated grafts did not survive (P < 0.00001). DT(390)IL-3 may prove highly useful for ex vivo purging of lethal malignant leukemia cells from autologous BM grafts.

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