Older acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients have a poor prognosis; therefore, novel therapies are needed. Allogeneic natural killer (NK) cells have been adoptively transferred with promising clinical results. Here, we report the first-in-human study exploiting a unique scalable NK-cell product generated ex vivo from CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC) from partially HLA-matched umbilical cord blood units.
Ten older AML patients in morphologic complete remission received an escalating HSPC-NK cell dose (between 3 and 30 × 106/kg body weight) after lymphodepleting chemotherapy without cytokine boosting.
HSPC-NK cell products contained a median of 75% highly activated NK cells, with <1 × 104 T cells/kg and <3 × 105 B cells/kg body weight. HSPC-NK cells were well tolerated, and neither graft-versus-host disease nor toxicity was observed. Despite no cytokine boosting being given, transient HSPC-NK cell persistence was clearly found in peripheral blood up to 21% until day 8, which was accompanied by augmented IL15 plasma levels. Moreover, donor chimerism up to 3.5% was found in bone marrow. Interestingly, in vivo HSPC-NK cell maturation was observed, indicated by the rapid acquisition of CD16 and KIR expression, while expression of most activating receptors was sustained. Notably, 2 of 4 patients with minimal residual disease (MRD) in bone marrow before infusion became MRD negative (<0.1%), which lasted for 6 months.
The findings indicate that HSPC-NK cell adoptive transfer is a promising, potential “off-the-shelf” translational immunotherapy approach in AML.
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