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Exp Hematol. 2010 Dec;38(12):1209-18. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2010.09.004. Epub 2010 Sep 18.

Naturally occurring CD4+ CD25+ FOXP3+ T-regulatory cells are increased in chronic myeloid leukemia patients not in complete cytogenetic remission and can be immunosuppressive.

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Department of Haematology, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.



Clinical presentation of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) requires not only the deregulated tyrosine kinase BCR-ABL, but also the failure of an immune response against BCR-ABL-expressing cells. T-cell responses against BCR-ABL and other antigens are well-described, but their relevance to the in vivo control of CML is unclear. The suppressive role of naturally occurring T regulatory (T-reg) cells in antitumor immunity is well-established, although little is known about their role in modulating the T-cell response to BCR-ABL.


Naturally occurring T-reg cells were characterized and quantified by flow cytometry in 39 CML patients and 10 healthy donors. Their function was studied by observing their effect on responses to purified protein derivative, a recall antigen, and on the response of an autologous T-cell line recognizing BCR-ABL.


T-reg cells were CD4(+), CD25(+), FOXP3(+), CD127(low), and CD62L(high). T-reg numbers in patients in complete cytogenetic remission were significantly lower than in patients not in complete cytogenetic remission (p < 0.01). T-reg cell depletion using anti-CD25 selection enhanced proliferative responses to purified protein derivative. Furthermore, the interferon-γ and/or granzyme-B production of effector cells specific for viral peptides or a BCR-ABL HLA-A3-restricted peptide was inhibited when autologous T-reg cells were present.


Taken together, these data suggest a role for T-reg cells in limiting immune responses in CML patients and this may include immune responses to BCR-ABL. The increased frequency of T-reg cells in patients with high levels of BCR-ABL transcripts indicates that an immune mechanism may be important in the control of CML.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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