Skip to main content

Restore T cells to fight leukemia

Sep. 14, 2016, 12:00 PM

Acute and chronic B cell leukemia can promote T cell “exhaustion,” which contributes to increased susceptibility to infection and mortality. The treatment-independent mechanisms by which leukemia promotes T cell dysfunction are poorly understood, however.

Since metabolic pathways must be tightly regulated to allow normal T cell proliferation and function, Jeffrey Rathmell, Ph.D., Peter Siska, M.D., and colleagues at Duke University and the Netherlands reasoned that impaired T cell function in leukemia may result from altered metabolism.

In a study published last month in the Journal of Immunology, they show that T cells in leukemia patients and leukemia-bearing animals are metabolically suppressed partly through the upregulation of PD-1, which turns down T cell activation. Restoring T cell metabolism improved T cell function and delayed progression of leukemia.

Other studies have found that blockading PD-1 signaling can reactivate exhausted T cells in some solid tumors and in a mouse leukemia model. Modulation of T cell metabolism thus may represent a new therapeutic avenue for leukemia patients, they conclude.

The study was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants CA183529 and DK105550.

Send suggestions for articles to highlight in Aliquots and any other feedback about the column to

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice