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Immunol Cell Biol. 2011 Mar;89(3):396-407. doi: 10.1038/icb.2010.124. Epub 2011 Feb 8.

Exploiting T cells specific for human minor histocompatibility antigens for therapy of leukemia.

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Program in Immunology, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109-981024, USA.


Minor histocompatibility (H) antigens are major targets of a graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect mediated by donor CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) between human leukocyte antigen identical individuals. In the 15 years since the first molecular characterization of human minor H antigens, significant strides in minor H antigen discovery have been made as a consequence of advances in cellular, genetic and molecular techniques. Much has been learned about the mechanisms of minor H antigen immunogenicity, their expression on normal and malignant cells, and their role in GVL responses. T cells specific for minor H antigens expressed on leukemic cells, including leukemic stem cells, can be isolated and expanded in vitro and infused into allogeneic HCT recipients to augment the GVL effect to prevent and treat relapse. The first report of the adoptive transfer of minor H antigen-specific T-cell clones to patients with leukemic relapse in 2010 illustrates the potential for the manipulation of alloreactivity for therapeutic benefit. This review describes the recent developments in T-cell recognition of human minor H antigens, and efforts to translate these discoveries to reduce leukemia relapse after allogeneic HCT.

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