Abnormalities of T lymphocytes in B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) have been extensively documented by several immunologic investigations. Following recent studies pointing to the favorable effect of TP-1, a partially purified extract of calf thymus, on the T cell-mediated immunity of several diseases, including Hodgkin's disease, we have used monoclonal antibodies and the enriched T lymphocytes of 16 untreated B-CLL patients to evaluate the proportion of T cell subsets before and after the administration of TP-1. In addition, the proliferative response to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and the helper function in a pokeweed mitogen (PWM) system were assessed. In ten cases, the effect of TP-1 was also studied in vitro by evaluating the same parameters before and after incubation of B-CLL T cells with the drug. The study demonstrated that in vivo administration of TP-1 increases significantly (P less than .001) the proportion of the defective helper/inducer T cell population (OKT4-positive cells) in B-CLL, leading to a near normal OKT4/OKT8 ratio. Furthermore, the improved phenotypic profile was accompanied by an increased proliferative response to PHA and, in particular, by a significant increase (P less than .01) of T helper capacity; this increase was, however, insufficient to enable the normalization of the serum immunoglobulin levels. The in vitro incubation of B-CLL T lymphocytes did not succeed in producing significant modifications in distribution and function.

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