A leukemia drug kills cancerous T-cells while sparing normal immunity

January 25, 2012, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Leukemic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (L-CTCL) is a leukemia arising from T-cells, a type of white blood cell. This cancer can involve the skin and other organs, and patients often die within three years.

Rachael A. Clark, MD, PhD, BWH assistant professor of dermatology and associate dermatologist and Thomas Kupper, MD, BWH Department of Dermatology chairman and their colleagues now report a new study that low-dose Campath (alemtuzumab) not only treats patients with L-CTCL but does so without increasing their risk of infections.

The study was electronically published on January 18, 2012 in Science Translational Medicine.

Campath was previously believed to kill all (T-cells and B-cells) in the body and render patients susceptible to infections. However, Clark and Kupper found that Campath only kills T-cells that enter the , but it spares a newly discovered population of T-cells that live long-term in the tissues.

"We noticed that our patients were not getting infections, and we looked in the skin. We saw healthy T-cells remaining there despite the fact that there were no T-cells in the blood," said Clark. "We used to believe that most T-cells responsible for protecting against infection were in the bloodstream. But we now realize that highly protective T-cells also inhabit tissues such as the skin, lungs and . It is these tissue resident T-cells that are critical in protecting us from infection on a day-to-day basis."

By showing that Campath kills circulating T-cells, including the cancerous T-cells, but spares tissue resident T-cells, Clark and Kupper have shown that Campath effectively treats L-CTCL while sparing normal immunity. Their findings are also the first demonstration in human beings that tissue resident T-cells provide frontline of the skin.

"We're very grateful to our patients for entrusting us with their care and for teaching us important lessons about the immune system." said Clark.

In a companion piece, Mark Davis, PhD, Stanford University School of Medicine, called the work a "translational tour de force."

Explore further: Agent selectively targets malignant B cells in chronic leukemia, study shows

Related Stories

Agent selectively targets malignant B cells in chronic leukemia, study shows

May 3, 2011
A new experimental drug selectively kills the cancerous cells that cause chronic lymphocytic leukemia, according to a new study by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James ...

Rebooting the system: Immune cells repair damaged lung tissues after flu infection

October 3, 2011
There's more than one way to mop up after a flu infection. Now, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report in Nature Immunology that a previously unrecognized population of lung ...

Novel treatment for skin lymphoma

January 17, 2012
Promising findings on a novel combination treatment approach for a chronic type of skin lymphoma are being published today (embargoed for 4 pm) in JAMA's Archives of Dermatology by clinical researchers from Seidman Cancer ...

Recommended for you

Scientists emulate the human blood-retinal barrier on a microfluidic chip

January 24, 2018
For some years, scientists have been seeking ways to reduce animal testing and accelerate clinical trials. In vitro assays with living cells are an alternative, but have limitations, as the interconnection and interaction ...

Forces from fluid in the developing lung play an essential role in organ development

January 23, 2018
It is a marvel of nature: during gestation, multiple tissue types cooperate in building the elegantly functional structures of organs, from the brain's folds to the heart's multiple chambers. A recent study by Princeton researchers ...

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.