International audienceBACKGROUND: HTLV-I associated adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) carries a dismal prognosis due to chemo-resistance and immuno-compromised micro-environment. The combination of zidovudine and interferon-alpha (IFN) significantly improved survival in ATL. Promising results were reported by adding arsenic trioxide to zidovudine and IFN. RESULTS: Here we assessed Th1/Th2/Treg cytokine gene expression profiles in 16 ATL patients before and 30 days after treatment with arsenic/IFN/zidovudine, in comparison with HTLV-I healthy carriers and sero-negative blood donors. ATL patients at diagnosis displayed a Treg/Th2 cytokine profile with significantly elevated transcript levels of Foxp3, interleukin-10 (IL-10), and IL-4 and had a reduced Th1 profile evidenced by decreased transcript levels of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and IL-2. Most patients (15/16) responded, with CD4+CD25+ cells significantly decreasing after therapy, paralleled by decreases in Foxp3 transcript. Importantly, arsenic/IFN/zidovudine therapy sharply diminished IL-10 transcript and serum levels concomittant with decrease in IL-4 and increases in IFN-γ and IL-2 mRNA, whether or not values were adjusted to the percentage of CD4+CD25+ cells. Finally, IL-10 transcript level negatively correlated with clinical response at Day 30. CONCLUSIONS: The observed shift from a Treg/Th2 phenotype before treatment toward a Th1 phenotype after treatment with arsenic/IFN/zidovudine may play an important role in restoring an immuno-competent micro-environment, which enhances the eradication of ATL cells and the prevention of opportunistic infections
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