Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that most often affects older adults. CLL responds to bone marrow stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT); however, the rate of relapse for CLL remains relatively high. A benefit of allo-HSCT is that treatment can result in the development of an anti-tumor response produced by the grafted cells and is associated with a low risk of cancer relapse.
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Catherine Wu and colleagues at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston report the results of a clinical trial that tested the effectiveness of vaccination with a CLL patient's own leukemia cells in the development of anti-tumor responses and relapse reduction. Patients with advanced CLL were vaccinated with their own irradiated tumor cells following allo-HSCT. Nearly 3 years after vaccination, 13 of the 18 vaccinated patients were in complete remission. The 6 patients that received the maximum vaccine dosage produced T cells that specifically reacted against tumors cells.
These results suggest that tumor cell vaccination has the potential to enhance anti-tumor responses following allo-HSCT.