The Graft-versus-Leukemia (GVL) effect following allogeneic hematopoetic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is one of the most prominent examples showing the ability of the immune system to eliminate malignant diseases. This effect was a strictly clinically described phenomenon, but in the last years T-cell responses against tumor-associated antigens (TAA) could partly be set in correlation with clinical benefit. Previously, TAA such as WT1 and proteinase-3 have been proposed as the targets for T-cells to establish a GVL effect. Now, we examined in addition other TAA (MUC1 and HM1.24) as possible T-cell targets of GVL related immune responses. We have defined new peptide epitopes from the MUC1 and HM1.24 antigens by the reverse immunology approach to increase the number of patients who can be screened and to expand the repertoire of immunologic monitoring as well as therapeutic approaches. A total of 25 patients after allogeneic stem cell transplantation have been screened and we are able to detect T-cell responses to both the MUC1 and HM1.24 antigens on top of the WT1 and the proteinase-3 antigen. Interestingly, we could detect a significant relationship between relapse and the absence of a T-cell response to TAA: Only 1/10 patients (10%) with TAA-specific CTL relapsed in contrast to 8/15 patients (53.3%) without TAA-specific CTL responses (p < 0.05). Furthermore, we demonstrated MUC1 peptides presented by HLA A*6801, B*0702 and B*4402 to be specifically recognized by CD3+/CD8+ T-cells. In conclusion, CD8+ T-cell responses directed to TAA might contribute to the GVL effect and are not limited to WT1 and proteinase-3. These observations clearly highlight both the importance and the potential of immunotherapeutic approaches in allogeneic stem cell recipients.
Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.