Human leukocyte antigen-E (HLA-E) alleles correlate with HLA-E plasma levels and are associated with early disease progression among patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), according to a study published in Cancer.1

HLA-E is a nonclassical major histocompatibility complex class I molecule. Recent evidence suggests that HLA-E predicts advanced tumor stages and disease progression. Although increased HLA-E expression and elevated soluble HLA-E (sHLA-E) plasma levels are associated with a poor prognosis among patients with solid tumors, the role of HLA-E as a biomarker in hematologic malignancies remains unclear.

To assess the impact of HLA-E allelic genotype and HLA-E plasma levels on prognosis of patients with blood cancers, investigators analyzed HLA-E alleles and sHLA-E levels in a cohort of 110 patients with CLL.

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Results showed that levels of sHLA-E increased with advanced disease stage and decreased following therapy (P = .01). The researchers also found that both HLA-E*01:03 alleles and high levels of sHLA-E were associated with needing early treatment among patients with CLL (P = .027 and P = .023, respectively).

After controlling for confounding factors, the study demonstrated that the presence of at least 1 HLA-E*01:03 allele was independently predictive of requiring early treatment.

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The findings suggest that HLA-E*01:03 status is a promising biomarker for managing patients with CLL. Further studies are warranted to evaluate whether HLA-E/sHLA-E and/or HLA-E alleles can serve as biomarkers for predicting efficacy of treatment strategies targeting the inhibitory receptor of HLA-E in CLL.


  1. Wagner B, da Silva Nardi F, Schramm S, et al. HLA-E allelic genotype correlates with HLA-E plasma levels and predicts early progression in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Cancer. 2016 Nov 2. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30427 [Epub ahead of print]