Immunostimulatory effects of melphalan and usefulness in adoptive cell therapy with antitumor CD4+ t cells

Michal Kuczma, Zhi Chun Ding, Gang Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The alkylating agent melphalan is used in the treatment of hematological malignancies, especially multiple myeloma. In the past, the usefulness of melphalan has been solely attributed to its cytotoxicity on fastgrowing cancerous cells. Although the immunomodulatory effects of melphalan were suggested many years ago, only recently has this aspect of melphalan’s activity begun to be elucidated at the molecular level. Emerging evidence indicates that melphalan can foster an immunogenic microenvironment by inducing immunogenic cell death (ICD) as characterized by membrane translocation of endoplasmic reticulum protein calreticulin (CRT) and by release of chromatin-binding protein high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). In addition, the lympho-depletive effect of melphalan can induce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factors, deplete regulatory T cells, and create space to facilitate the expansion of infused tumor-reactive T cells. These features suggest that melphalan can be used as a preparative chemotherapy for adoptive T-cell therapy. This notion is supported by our recent work demonstrating that the combination of melphalan and adoptive transfer of tumor-reactive CD4+ T cells can mediate potent antitumor effects in animal models. This review summarizes the recent advances in understanding and utilizing the immunomodulatory effects of melphalan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-191
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Reviews in Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoptive cell therapy
  • CD4
  • Immunostimulation
  • Melphalan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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