Graft-versus-leukemia reactions in allogeneic chimeras

Hans Jochem Kolb, Christoph Schmid, A. John Barrett, Dolores J. Schendel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

362 Scopus citations


There is a strong graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) due to elimination of tumor cells by alloimmune effector lymphocytes. When leukemia relapses after allogeneic SCT, donor lymphocyte transfusions (DLTs) can induce sustained remissions in some patients. This review summarizes the current status on clinical use of DLT, the basis of GVL reactions, problems associated with this therapy, and new strategies to improve DLT. Several multicenter surveys demonstrated that the GVL effect of DLT is most effective in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), whereas it is less pronounced in acute leukemia and myeloma. Cytokine stimulation to induce differentiation of myeloid progenitor cells or to up-regulate costimulatory molecules on tumor cells may improve the efficacy of DLT. Infections and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) are major complications of DLT. Control of GVHD may be improved using suicide gene-modified T cells for DLT, allowing T-cell elimination if severe GVHD develops. Hopefully, in the future, GVL effect can be separated from GVHD through adoptive transfer of selected T cells that recognize leukemia-specific antigens or minor histocompatibility antigens, which are expressed predominantly on hematopoietic cells, thereby precluding attack of normal tissues. In patients with leukemia and lymphomas with fast progression, tumor growth may outpace development of effector T cells. Here it may be preferable to select stem cell transplant donors with HLA-mismatches that allow alloreactive natural killer cells, which appear early after transplantation, to retain their cytolytic function. New approaches for adoptive immune therapy of leukemia, which promise a better prognosis for these patients, are being developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-776
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Graft-versus-leukemia reactions in allogeneic chimeras'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this