Stem cell transplantation in patients with leukaemia brings along donor immune cells that are the cause of graft-versus-host disease. But, the same cells can have a beneficial effect by eradicating residual malignant haematopoietic cells through the so-called graft-versus-leukaemia effect. In July Nature Medicine, Pierre Fontaine and colleagues from Guy-Bernier Research Center, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Montreal, show how a single immunodominant minor histocompatibility antigen can enhance the curative graft-versus-leukaemia effect while removing the graft-versus-host rejection.

Working on irradiated leukaemic mice Fontaine et al. demonstrated that injection of T lymphocytes primed against the single immunodominant minor histocompatibility antigen (B6dom1) caused no graft-versus-host disease but produced a curative anti-leukaemic response through a graft-versus-leukaemia effect (Nat Med 2001, 7:789-794).

These findings suggest a single mechanism in the avoidance of graft-versus-host rejection and the potentiation of graft-versus-leukaemia effect and could have important implications for leukaemia immunotherapy.

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