Seven patients with high-risk acute T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia (T- ALL) and six with T cell lymphoma (T-LL) were treated with autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT) after in vitro purging of their bone marrow with WT1 (CD7)-ricin A-chain immunotoxin. CD7 expression on the tumor cells showed large variations between the individual patients and was highly related to the specific cytotoxicity of WT1-ricin A. Incubation of bone marrow with up to 10(-8)mol/L WT1-ricin A in the presence of 6 mmol/L NH4Cl did not compromise the growth potential of the hematopoietic progenitors CFU-GM, CFU-GEMM, and BFU-E. Hematologic engraftment (greater than 10(9) leukocytes/L) occurred within a normal time period (median, 17 days). Seven patients are alive and in complete remission (CR) at 48+, 44+, 40+, 26+, 11+, 7+, and 6+ months after ABMT. Four patients relapsed within 6 months after ABMT. Two of them had the lowest CD7 expression on their tumor cells, the other two were transplanted in CR2 and CR3. Two patients died from transplantation related infections. The immunologic reconstitution was delayed, although the numbers of T cells reached normal levels within 1 month. The number of CD7+ cells remained low up to 1 year after transplantation. The T4/T8-ratio was decreased for at least 6 months. The T-cell response to mitogens recovered to normal levels after 1 year. This study shows that ABMT with WT1-ricin A purged bone marrow in high-risk T-cell malignancies results in a complete hematopoietic and a delayed immunologic reconstitution. The actuarial relapse free survival is 61% at 3 years.

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