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Semin Cancer Biol. 2006 Apr;16(2):150-9. Epub 2006 Jan 23.

CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells in human hematopoietic cell transplantation.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, MA 02115, USA.


Naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (T(reg)) are differentiated T lymphocytes actively involved in the control of peripheral immunity. Over the past few years, a number of animal studies have demonstrated the critical role of these cells in the outcome of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT). In these models, T(reg) can exert a potent suppressive effect on immune effector cells reactive to host antigens and prevent graft versus host disease (GVHD) while preserving the graft-versus-leukemia effect (GVL). The present review summarizes current knowledge on the role of T(reg) populations in humans following allogeneic HCT. Recent investigations focusing on T(reg) in transplant patients have generated conflicting results mostly due to the use of different parameters to assess T(reg). Nonetheless, these studies suggested that an imbalance between T(reg) and effector cells during immune reconstitution can substantially impair regulatory mechanisms and contributes to the development of GVHD. Building on these studies, a number of therapeutic strategies are being developed to positively modulate T(reg) pools in vivo and prevent or even correct GVHD. Conversely, clinical interventions can also be envisaged to decrease T(reg) activity in vivo and enhance the GVL effect. These potential strategies are discussed herein. Coming years will undoubtedly yield additional knowledge on how to use T(reg) subsets in vivo and successfully control and modulate immune responses in patients post-HCT.

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