In older patients suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), aggressive chemotherapy is accompanied with high treatment-related morbidity and mortality. Gemtuzumab ozogamicin (GO), a humanized monoclonal anti-CD33 antibody, represents a well tolerated treatment option, but optimal treatment schedules are still unknown. Additionally, Suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3) inhibits the CD33-induced block on cytokine-induced proliferation. Consequently, a variable response of AML cells to anti-CD33-targeted therapy may be caused by modulation of SOCS3 expression. Twenty-four patients with refractory or relapsed CD33-positive AML received GO as a single agent before or after conventional chemotherapy. The methylation status of the SOCS3 CpG island was assessed by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. Response (RR) and overall survival (OS) were significantly higher in 16 patients receiving chemotherapy before GO (RR 81%, OS 14.8 months) compared to three patients who received GO single agent therapy (RR 33%, OS 7.2 months) or 16 with GO before chemotherapy (RR 0% OS 2.2 months, P = 0.01 for RR and P <0.001 for OS). Methylation of the SOCS3 CpG island was found in 8/24 patients. There was a trend towards a higher RR and longer OS in patients with SOCS3 hypermethylation (RR 86%, OS 25.1 months) compared to unmethylated SOCS3 (RR 56%, OS 10.3 months, P = 0.09). Administration of GO a few days after chemotherapy seems to provide better response and survival compared to administration of GO directly before chemotherapy. The potential role of SOCS3 hypermethylation as a biomarker should be further investigated in patients undergoing GO containing therapies.
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