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Cytotherapy. 2012 Jan;14(1):91-103. doi: 10.3109/14653249.2011.613931. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

The cytotoxic potential of interleukin-15-stimulated cytokine-induced killer cells against leukemia cells.

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University Children's Hospital of Frankfurt/Main and Department of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Hemostaseology, Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.



Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells may serve as an alternative approach to adoptive donor lymphocyte infusions (DLI) for patients with acute leukemia relapsing after haplo-identical hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). We investigated the feasibility of enhancing CIK cell-mediated cytotoxicity by interleukin (IL)-15 against acute myeloid and lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma cells.


CIK cells were activated using IL-2 (CIK(IL-2)) or IL-15 (CIK(IL-15)) and phenotypically analyzed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Cytotoxic potential was measured by europium release assay.


CIK(IL-2) cells showed potent cytotoxicity against the T-lymphoma cell line H9, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cell line MOLT-4 and subtype M4 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell line THP-1, but low cytotoxicity against the precursor B (pB)-cell ALL cell line Tanoue. IL-15 stimulation resulted in a significant enhancement of CIK cell-mediated cytotoxicity against acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma cell lines as well as against primary acute myeloid and defined lymphoblastic leukemia cells. However, the alloreactive potential of CIK(IL-15) cells remained low. Further analysis of CIK(IL-15) cells demonstrated that the NKG2D receptor is apparently involved in the recognition of target cells whereas killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR)-HLA mismatches contributed to a lesser extent to the CIK(IL-15) cell-mediated cytotoxicity. In this context, CD3 (+) CD8 (+) CD25 (+) CD56(-) CIK(IL-15) cell subpopulations were more effective in the lysis of AML cells, in contrast with CD56 (+) CIK(IL-15) cells, which showed the highest cytotoxic potential against ALL cells.


This study provides the first evidence that CIK(IL-15) cells may offer a therapeutic option for patients with refractory or relapsed leukemia following haplo-identical HSCT.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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