Utilization of monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma

J Ritz, SF Schlossman


The generation of murine monoclonal antibodies reactive with human leukemia and lymphoma cells has recently led to clinical trials that have begun to evaluate the use of these reagents in the treatment of various leukemias and lymphomas. Several of these studies have demonstrated that infusion of monoclonal antibody can cause the rapid and specific clearance of leukemic cells from the peripheral blood. Intravenously administered antibody also rapidly binds to bone marrow lymphoblasts, and in one instance, has resulted in the partial regression of tumor cell infiltrates in lymph nodes and skin. Unfortunately, clinically significant responses have not in general been achieved, but these clinical studies have identified specific factors that result in the development of resistance to antibody-mediated lysis in vivo. These factors include the presence of circulating antigen, antigenic modulation, reactivity of monoclonal antibody with normal cells, immune response to murine antibody, and the inefficiency of natural immune effector mechanisms. Current research is now being directed towards developing methods to circumvent each of these obstacles. Future clinical studies utilizing antibodies in vitro or with different specificity may demonstrate greater therapeutic efficacy. In addition, monoclonal antibodies can be used as carriers of other cytotoxic agents and in conjunction with other agents that will reduce the total load. Monoclonal antibodies represent new and powerful reagents that may in the near future become an additional therapeutic modality for patients with malignant disease.