Our studies of adult immune reconstitution have demonstrated that severe deficits in naive T cells and TCR repertoire develop and persist in older patients with limited renewal of thymopoiesis. In order to develop IL-7 as a potential therapeutic agent to enhance nave populations in these patients, we initiated the first phase I study of recombinant human IL-7 (rhIL-7) administration in humans. We demonstrated that two weeks of alternate day treatment with rhIL-7 produced a marked dose-dependent increase in the numbers of circulating CD4+ and CD8+ T cells that persisted in follow-up assays at 6 to 12 weeks post treatment.14,15 Furthermore, rhIL-7 therapy disproportionately increased CCR7+CD27+CD45RA+ naive and CCR7+CD27+CD45RA- central memory cells, which represent the most diverse components of the mature TCR pool, at the expense of the CCR7-CD27-CD45RA+/- effector populations. The proportion of naive cells in the total CD8+ population increased by as much as 39%. We further documented that IL-7 produced a prolonged period of cellular expansion (Ki67+ ) and elevation of anti-apoptotic factors (Bcl-2) in naive and memory T cells, but not in effector T cells. Part of the basis for this disparity is the relatively low expression of the IL-7R(CD127) in effector T cells, particularly CD8 effectors. Similarly Treg cells, which have low expression of IL-7R, did not show the same sharp increase in the percentage of cells in cycle following initiation of IL-7 therapy and declined as a percentage of the total CD4 population. Because of the extent of this population shift, we hypothesized that IL-7 would lead to an overall increase in TCR diversity in CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. We assessed TCR diversity using spectratype analysis on sorted CD4 and CD8 populations at day 0 and one week after rhIL-7 therapy (day 21) in six subjects. Three of these subjects were over 60 years of age, and a fourth patient was severely T cell deficient following recent chemotherapy. For each patient, we compared pre- and post-therapy spectratype divergence from a Gaussian-like normal donor standard. The global diversity (divergence from a normal donor standard in each of 22 BV families) of pre and post spectratypes was compared by Wilcoxon paired non-parametric analysis. We determined that 4 of the 6 subjects had a statistically significant increase (P <.05) in repertoire diversity following IL-7 treatment, as compared to baseline, in either the CD4+, CD8+, or both T-cell populations. This expansion of nave and central memory T cells and the disproportional loss in effector cells was particularly evident in CD8 populations in which 5/6 patients had either a significant shift or a strong trend toward increased repertoire diversity. Given the short duration of therapy, the advanced ages of some patients, and the PCR-assessed decline in the frequency of TREC in even the most nave T cells (sorted CD31+CD45RA+ CD4 cells) that we observed, this enhancement in diversity was due primarily to differential population expansion, not IL-7 induced thymic output. We have thus shown that rhIL-7 has the potential to induce thymic-independent T-cell growth in naive and CM populations and enhance repertoire diversity in peripheral T-cell populations. Whether this repair of repertoire is of functional importance is being addressed in a new clinical trial which is now accruing patients. We have also initiated a new clinical trial to treat the pulmonary complication of chronic graft versus host disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans. Preliminary results are encouraging and the study remains open and active. A new trial has also begun to treat leukemia with myeloablative therapy and assess improvement in immune reconstitution by modulation of thymus function. In a trial involving unrelated donor allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, we have developed an extensive, clinically annotated data base of laboratory values relevant to immune reconstitution. This data set is nearing maturation and will be available for initial analysis in the near future.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Investigator-Initiated Intramural Research Projects (ZIA)
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National Cancer Institute Division of Basic Sciences
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