Rituximab (RTX), a chimeric anti-CD20 antibody, is associated with direct induction of apoptosis and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) with clinical efficacy in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Lenalidomide (LEN), a novel immunomodulatory agent, sensitizes tumor cells and enhances ADCC. Our study attempted to elucidate the mechanism of LEN-enhanced RTX-mediated cytotoxicity of MCL cells. We found that LEN and RTX induced growth inhibition of both cultured and fresh primary MCL cells. LEN enhanced RTX-induced apoptosis via upregulating phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal protein kinases (JNK), Bcl-2, Bad; increasing release of cytochrome-c; enhancing activation of caspase-3, -8, -9 and cleavage of PARP. Meanwhile, LEN activated NK cells and increased CD16 expression on CD56lowCD16+ NK cells. Whole PBMCs but not NK cell-depleted PBMCs treated with LEN augmented 30% of RTX-dependent cytotoxicity. Daily treatment with LEN increased NK cells by 10-folds in SCID mice, and combination of LEN and RTX decreased tumor burden and prolonged survival of MCL-bearing SCID mice. Taken together, our study demonstrates that LEN plus RTX provides a synergistically therapeutic effect on MCL cells by enhancing apoptosis and RTX-dependent NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity and may be an optimal combination in the clinical trial of relapsed or refractory MCL.
ASJC Scopus subject areas