Adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is associated to chronic human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection and carries a poor prognosis. Arsenic trioxide (AS) and interferon-alpha (IFNα) together selectively trigger Tax viral oncoprotein degradation and cure Tax-driven murine ATL. AS/IFNα/zidovudine treatment achieves a high response rate in patients with chronic ATL. Interleukin 10 (IL-10) is an immuno-suppressive cytokine whose expression is activated by Tax. Here we show that, in ATL, AS/IFNα-induced abrogation of leukemia initiating cell activity requires IL-10 expression shutoff. Loss of IL-10 secretion drives production of inflammatory cytokines by the microenvironment, followed by innate immunity-mediated clearance of Taxdriven leukemic cells. Accordingly, anti-IL-10 monoclonal antibodies significantly increased the efficiency of AS/IFNα therapy. These results emphasize the sequential targeting of malignant ATL cells and their immune microenvironment in leukemia initiating cell (LIC) eradication and provide a strong rational to test AS/IFNα/anti-IL10 combination in ATL.
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