Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) relapse is one of the most common and significant adverse events following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Downregulation of major histocompatibility class II (MHC-II) surface expression on AML blasts may represent a mechanism of escape from the graft-versus-malignancy effect and facilitate relapse. We hypothesized that T-cell immunotherapies targeting AML antigens would upregulate MHC-II surface expression via localized release of interferon gamma (IFN-γ), a protein known to upregulate MHC-II expression via JAK-STAT signaling. We demonstrate that flotetuzumab (FLZ), a CD123 × CD3 bispecific DART molecule, and chimeric antigen receptor expressing T cells targeting CD123, CD33, or CD371 upregulate MHC-II surface expression in vitro on a THP-1 AML cell line with intermediate MHC-II expression and 4 primary AML samples from patients relapsing after HCT with low MHC-II expression. We additionally show that FLZ upregulates MHC-II expression in a patient-derived xenograft model and in patients with relapsed or refractory AML who were treated with FLZ in a clinical trial. Finally, we report that FLZ-induced MHC-II upregulation is mediated by IFN-γ. In conclusion, we provide evidence that T-cell immunotherapies targeting relapsed AML can kill AML via both MHC-independent mechanisms and by an MHC-dependent mechanism through local release of IFN-γ and subsequent upregulation of MHC-II expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1718-1723
Number of pages6
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 6 2023


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