Association of TIM-3 checkpoint receptor expression on T cells with treatment-free remission in chronic myeloid leukemia

Yazad D. Irani, Chung H. Kok, Jade Clarson, Naranie Shanmuganathan, Susan Branford, David T. Yeung, David M. Ross, Timothy P. Hughes, Agnes S.M. Yong

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Dysregulation of immune-checkpoint receptors has been reported at diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), however, their role in the maintenance of remission after tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) cessation is unclear. We assessed programmed cell death-1 (PD-1), T-cell immunoglobulin, and mucin-domain containing protein-3 (TIM-3), cytotoxic T-lymphocyte–associated protein-4 (CTLA-4), lymphocyte-activation gene-3 (LAG-3), and T-cell immunoreceptor with immunoglobulin and immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (ITIM) domains (TIGIT) expression on T-cell subsets, regulatory T cells (T-regs), and natural killer (NK) cells at the time of TKI cessation in 44 patients (22 patients sustained treatment-free remission [TFR] and 22 experienced molecular relapse [MolR]). We confirmed our previous finding that absolute numbers of T-regs are increased in patients who experienced MolR compared with those who sustained TFR. The immune-checkpoint receptors PD-1, CTLA-4, LAG-3, and TIGIT on T or NK cells were not differentially expressed between the MolR and TFR groups. However, TIM-3 was consistently upregulated on bulk T cells (CD3+) and T-cell subsets including, CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and T-regs, in patients who relapsed in comparison with those who maintained TFR after discontinuation. Furthermore, gene expression analysis from publicly available data sets showed increased TIM-3 expression on CML stem cells compared with normal hematopoietic stem cells. These findings suggest that among the targetable immune-checkpoint molecules, TIM-3 blockade may potentially improve effector immune response in patients with CML stopping TKI, while concomitantly targeting leukemic stem cells and could be a promising therapeutic strategy for preventing relapse after cessation of TKI in patients with CML.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2364-2374
Number of pages11
JournalBlood Advances
Issue number11
Early online date25 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2023


  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
  • immune-checkpoint receptors
  • tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)
  • T-cells


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