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Blood. 2000 Apr 1;95(7):2198-203.

Selective elimination of leukemic CD34(+) progenitor cells by cytotoxic T lymphocytes specific for WT1.

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Department of Immunology, Imperial School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


Hematologic malignancies such as acute and chronic myeloid leukemia are characterized by the malignant transformation of immature CD34(+) progenitor cells. Transformation is associated with elevated expression of the Wilm's tumor gene encoded transcription factor (WT1). Here we demonstrate that WT1 can serve as a target for cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) with exquisite specificity for leukemic progenitor cells. HLA-A0201- restricted CTL specific for WT1 kill leukemia cell lines and inhibit colony formation by transformed CD34(+) progenitor cells isolated from patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), whereas colony formation by normal CD34(+) progenitor cells is unaffected. Thus, the tissue-specific transcription factor WT1 is an ideal target for CTL-mediated purging of leukemic progenitor cells in vitro and for antigen-specific therapy of leukemia and other WT1-expressing malignancies in vivo.

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