Direct inhibition of human acute myeloid leukemia cell growth by IL-12

Elisa Ferretti, Emma Di Carlo, Claudia Cocco, Domenico Ribatti, Carlo Sorrentino, Emanuela Ognio, Daniela Montagna, Vito Pistoia, Irma Airoldi

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Acute myeloid leukemia is a haematopoietic malignancy originating from the transformation of myeloid progenitors that proliferate and accumulate in the bone marrow. In AML patients the survival rate at 5 years is 40-50% highlighting the need for novel therapies. In this study we have asked whether IL-12, an immuno-modulatory cytokine with anti-tumor activity, may inhibit directly AML cell growth. We show that the human AML cell lines U937, K562 and THP-1 expressed both chains of the IL-12 receptor (R), i.e. IL-12Rβ1 and IL-12Rβ2. IL-12 inhibited the angiogenic potential of AML cells in vitro, but did not affect their survival or proliferation. In vivo experiments were performed using SCID-NOD mice injected intraperitoneally (i.p.) with the human U937 AML cell line and subsequently treated with human recombinant IL-12 or PBS i.p. Histological, immunohistochemical and flow cytometric analyses on explanted tumors revealed that IL-12 reduced new vessel formation, induced apoptosis and inhibited tumor cell proliferation. Studies on a panel of angiogenesis related genes in explanted tumors using PCR arrays showed significantly down-regulated expression of numerous pro-angiogenic genes including VEGF-C, IL-6, IL-8, CXCL1, CXCL6 and alanyl aminopeptidase in IL-12 vs PBS treated mice. This study shows for the first time that IL-12 targets directly AML cell growth and paves the way to further investigation of IL-12 as potential drug for AML treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalImmunology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • AML
  • IL-12
  • IL-12R

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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