• acute myeloid leukaemia (AML);
  • chimeric antigen receptor (CAR);
  • cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells;
  • IL3RA (CD123);
  • leukaemia stem cell (LSC)


Current therapeutic regimens for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) are still associated with high rates of relapse. Immunotherapy with T-cells genetically modified to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) represents an innovative approach. Here we investigated the targeting of the interleukin three receptor alpha (IL3RA; CD123) molecule, which is overexpressed on AML bulk population, CD34+ leukaemia progenitors, and leukaemia stem cells (LSC) compared to normal haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs), and whose overexpression is associated with poor prognosis. Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells were transduced with SFG-retroviral-vector encoding an anti-CD123 CAR. Transduced cells were able to strongly kill CD123+ cell lines, as well as primary AML blasts. Interestingly, secondary colony experiments demonstrated that anti-CD123.CAR preserved in vitro HSPCs, in contrast to a previously generated anti-CD33.CAR, while keeping an identical cytotoxicity profile towards AML. Furthermore, limited killing of normal monocytes and CD123-low-expressing endothelial cells was noted, thus indicating a low toxicity profile of the anti-CD123.CAR. Taken together, our results indicate that CD123-specific CARs strongly enhance anti-AML CIK functions, while sparing HSPCs and normal low-expressing antigen cells, paving the way to develop novel immunotherapy approaches for AML treatment.