Targeting CD38 in acute myeloid leukemia interferes with leukemia trafficking and induces phagocytosis

Targeting the interaction between leukemic cells and the microenvironment is an appealing approach to enhance the therapeutic efficacy in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML infiltration induces a significant release of inflammatory cytokines in the human bone marrow niche which accelerates leukemogenesis. As the transmembrane glycoprotein CD38 has been shown to regulate cytokine release, we assessed the anti-leukemic potential of CD38 inhibition in AML. CD38 expression in AML cells proved to depend on microenvironmental cues and could be significantly enforced through addition of tretinoin. In fact, the anti-CD38 antibody daratumumab showed significant cytostatic efficacy in a 3D in vitro triple-culture model of AML, but with modest cell-autonomous cytotoxic activity and independent of CD38 expression level. In line with a predominantly microenvironment-mediated activity of daratumumab in AML, CD38 inhibition significantly induced antibody-dependent phagocytosis and showed interference with AML cell trafficking in vivo in a xenograft transplantation model, but overall lacked robust anti-leukemic effects.


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