B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is characterised by an accumulation of malignant B cells, and impaired humoral and cellular immune responses. Evasion strategies of leukemic cells appear to involve down-regulation of co-stimulatory molecules as well as increased resistance to apoptosis. Here we provide data supporting a novel concept to treat B-CLL with a humanized, superagonistic monoclonal antibody specific for CD28 (TGN1412). Superagonistic anti-CD28 antibodies have been shown to activate human T cells in vitro without requirement for engagement of the T cell antigen receptor (Luhder et al., J. Exp. Med. 2003. 197(8):955–66). Indicative of their activation, TGN1412-triggered T cells from healthy donors upregulate, among other activation markers, CD40L, that has been reported to promote anti-leukemic effects when ectopically expressed on B-CLL cells (

Wierda et al., Blood. 2000. 96 (9): 2917–2924
). In this report, the responses of PBMCs from B-CLL patients to soluble TGN1412 were examined. We show that in a dose-dependent fashion, polyclonal T cell activation was induced by TGN1412 including proliferation, cytokine production and induction of activation markers such as CD25, CD71, CD134 (Ox40), CTLA-4 (CD152) and CD154 (CD40L). Significantly, modulation of malignant B-CLL cells was also observed. MHC class II molecules (HLA-DR), CD95 and the co-stimulatory molecules CD80 and CD86, but not the proliferation marker Ki-67, were strongly up-regulated upon TGN1412 stimulation. These data suggested that improved antigen-presenting functions of B-CLL cells were induced by TGN1412. Accordingly, preliminary data indicate that B-CLL cells isolated from TGN1412 stimulated cultures induced enhanced proliferation of both allogeneic and autologous T cells, and importantly, TGN1412 activated T cells exhibited enhanced CTL-activity against B-CLL cells. In conclusion, our data suggest that TGN1412 induces polyclonal T cell expansion and activation as well as increased APC function of B-CLL cells. They imply that TGN1412 may have future therapeutic benefit for B-CLL patients.

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