Immunosuppressive therapy (IST), consisting of antithymocyte globulin and cyclosporine A, is effective in refractory cytopenia of childhood (RCC), suggesting that, similar to low-grade myelodysplastic syndromes in adult patients, T lymphocytes are involved in suppressing hematopoiesis in a subset of RCC patients. However, the potential role of a T-cell-mediated pathophysiology in RCC remains poorly explored. In a cohort of 92 RCC patients, we prospectively assessed the frequency of T-cell receptor (TCR) b-chain variable (Vβ) domain skewing in bone marrow and peripheral blood by heteroduplex PCR, and analyzed T-cell subsets in peripheral blood by flow cytometry. TCRVβ skewing was present in 40% of RCC patients. TCRVβ skewing did not correlate with bone marrow cellularity, karyotype, transfusion history, HLA-DR15 or the presence of a PNH clone. In 28 patients treated with IST, TCRVβ skewing was not clearly related with treatment response. However, TCRVβ skewing did correlate with a disturbed CD4+/CD8+ T-cell ratio, a reduction in naive CD8+ T cells, an expansion of effector CD8 + T cells and an increase in activated CD8+ T cells (defined as HLA-DR+, CD57+ or CD56+). These data suggest that T lymphocytes contribute to RCC pathogenesis in a proportion of patients, and provide a rationale for treatment with IST in selected patients with RCC.
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