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Blood. 2011 Sep 15;118(11):3003-12. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-02-334565. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

Monoclonal antibody blockade of IL-2 receptor α during lymphopenia selectively depletes regulatory T cells in mice and humans.

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The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.


Lymphodepletion augments adoptive cell transfer during antitumor immunotherapy, producing dramatic clinical responses in patients with malignant melanoma. We report that the lymphopenia induced by the chemotherapeutic agent temozolomide (TMZ) enhances vaccine-driven immune responses and significantly reduces malignant growth in an established model of murine tumorigenesis. Unexpectedly, despite the improved antitumor efficacy engendered by TMZ-induced lymphopenia, there was a treatment related increase in the frequency of immunosuppressive regulatory T cells (T(Regs); P = .0006). Monoclonal antibody (mAb)-mediated inhibition of the high-affinity IL-2 receptor α (IL-2Rα/CD25) during immunotherapy in normal mice depleted T(Regs) (73% reduction; P = .0154) but also abolished vaccine-induced immune responses. However, during lymphodepletion, IL-2Rα blockade decreased T(Regs) (93% reduction; P = .0001) without impairing effector T-cell responses, to augment therapeutic antitumor efficacy (66% reduction in tumor growth; P = .0024). Of clinical relevance, we also demonstrate that anti-IL-2Rα mAb administration during recovery from lymphodepletive TMZ in patients with glioblastoma reduced T(Reg) frequency (48% reduction; P = .0061) while permitting vaccine-stimulated antitumor effector cell expansion. To our knowledge, this is the first report of systemic antibody-mediated T(Reg) depletion during lymphopenia and the consequent synergistic enhancement of vaccine-driven cellular responses, as well as the first demonstration that anti-IL-2Rα mAbs function differentially in nonlymphopenic versus lymphopenic contexts.

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