Recently, we showed a natural reprogramming process during infection with Mycobacterium leprae (ML), the causative organism of human leprosy. ML hijacks the notable plasticity of adult Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS), bacteria's preferred nonimmune niche, to reprogram infected cells to progenitor/stem cell–like cells (pSLCs). Whereas ML appear to use this reprogramming process as a sophisticated bacterial strategy to spread infection to other tissues, understanding the mechanisms may shed new insights into the basic biology of cellular reprogramming and the development of new approaches for generating pSLC for therapeutic purposes as well as targeting bacterial infectious diseases at an early stage. Toward these goals, we extended our studies to identify other players that might be involved in this complex host cell reprogramming. Here we show that ML activates numerous immune-related genes mainly involved in innate immune responses and inflammation during early infection before downregulating Schwann cell lineage genes and reactivating developmental transcription factors. We validated these findings by demonstrating the ability of infected cells to secrete soluble immune factor proteins at early time points and their continued release during the course of reprogramming. By using time-lapse microscopy and a migration assay with reprogrammed Schwann cells (pSLCs) cultured with macrophages, we show that reprogrammed cells possess the ability to attract macrophages, providing evidence for a functional role of immune gene products during reprogramming. These findings suggest a potential role of innate immune response and the related signaling pathways in cellular reprogramming and the initiation of neuropathogenesis during ML infection.
The recent discovery that a small number of defined factors are sufficient to reprogram somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells has significantly expanded our knowledge of the plasticity of the epigenome. In this review, we discuss some aspects of cell fate plasticity and epigenetic alterations, with emphasis on DNA methylation during cellular reprogramming. Recent data suggests that DNA methylation is a major barrier to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell reprogramming. The demethylating agent 5-Azacytidine can enhance the efficiency of iPS cells generation and the putative DNA demethylase protein AID can erase DNA methylation at pluripotency gene promoters allowing cellular reprogramming. Understanding the epigenetic changes during cellular reprogramming will enhance our understanding of stem cell biology and lead to potential therapeutic approaches.
Leukemic cells from 70% of patients with Ia+CALLA+ non-T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) express an antigen (B1) found on all normal B lymphocytes. In this study, ALL cells that do not express the B1 antigen were studied in an attempt to further elucidate the cellular lineage of these tumors. Non-T cell ALL lines and tumor cells isolated from patients with non-T cell ALL that are Ia + CALLA + B1- were studied in vitro with a variety of agents known to promote cellular differentiation. Phorbol diester (TPA) or phytohemagglutinin conditioned leukocyte culture media were capable of inducing the expression of B1 on all four non-T cell ALL lines tested. In contrast, B1 could not be induced under the identical conditions on a promyelocytic leukemia line or a T cell lymphoblastic leukemia line. With the induction of B1 on non-T cell ALL lines, cytoplasmic mu-heavy chain (c mu) became undetectable, whereas the expression of CALLA and Ia were unchanged. The expression of B1 was accompanied by a decrease of cellular proliferation and DNA synthesis, but not significant morphologic changes were noted. In addition, no other B or T cell antigens were detected. The cellular origin of non-T cell ALL was further investigated using tumor cells isolated from leukemic patients. Tumor cells from eight patients with Ia + CALLA + B1-c mu- ALL could be induced in vitro with TPA to express both B1 and c mu. In contrast, cells from five patients with Ia + CALLA-B1-c mu- non-T cell ALL could not be induced with TPA to express CALLA, B1 or c mu. These studies suggest that the non-T cell ALL are heterogeneous and represent a spectrum of early B cell differentiation including the pre- pre-B cell (Ia + CALLA + B1-c mu-), the intermediate pre-B cell (Ia + CALLA +B1 + c mu-), and finally the "true" pre-B cell (Ia + CALLA + B1 + c mu+). The cellular origin of the remaining Ia + CALLA-B1-c mu- form of non-T cell ALL (20%) is still unknown.
Acute leukemia, the most common form of cancer in children, accounts for approximately 30% of all childhood malignancies, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia being five times more frequent than acute myeloid leukemia. Lineage switch is the term that has been used to describe the phenomenon of acute leukemias that meet the standard French-American-British system criteria for a particular lineage (either lymphoid or myeloid) upon initial diagnosis, but meet the criteria for the opposite lineage at relapse. Many reports have documented conversions of acute lymphoblastic leukemia to acute myeloid leukemia.
Here, we report the case of a 4-year-old child with acute myeloid leukemia, which upon relapse switched to acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The morphologic, phenotypic, and molecular features suggest the origin of a new leukemic clone.
During development, diverse cellular identities are established and maintained in the embryo. Although remarkably robust in vivo, cellular identities can be manipulated using experimental techniques. Lineage reprogramming is an emerging field at the intersection of developmental and stem cell biology in which a somatic cell is stably reprogrammed into a distinct cell type by forced expression of lineage-determining factors. Lineage reprogramming enables the direct conversion of readily available cells from patients (such as skin fibroblasts) into disease-relevant cell types (such as neurons and cardiomyocytes) or into induced pluripotent stem cells. Although remarkable progress has been made in developing novel reprogramming methods, the efficiency and fidelity of reprogramming need to be improved in order increase the experimental and translational utility of reprogrammed cells. Studying the mechanisms that prevent successful reprogramming should allow for improvements in reprogramming methods, which could have significant implications for regenerative medicine and the study of human disease. Furthermore, lineage reprogramming has the potential to become a powerful system for dissecting the mechanisms that underlie cell fate establishment and terminal differentiation processes. In this review, we will discuss how transcription factors interface with the genome and induce changes in cellular identity in the context of development and reprogramming.
It has long been believed that the tumor suppressor promyelocytic leukemia (PML), the core component of the nuclear substructures known as the PML-nuclear bodies, plays a key part in acute PML (APL), as it is first cloned at the breakpoint of the t(15;17) translocation typical of that disease. Research over the past decade, however, has radically changed our view of how this tumor suppressor is regulated, how it can be therapeutically targeted, and how it functions in a number of tissue systems. One noteworthy recent study, for instance, revealed that PML regulates the activation of fatty acid metabolism, and that this metabolic reprograming plays an essential role in cancer biology and stem cell biology through the control it exerts over stem cell fate decisions. These findings sparked exciting new investigations of PML as a critical “rheostat” responsible for fine-tuning tissue homeostasis, and thus created at the intersection of cancer and stem cell biology a new field of study with important therapeutic implications.
PML; stem cells; metabolism; stem cells and differentiation; breast cancer
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common hematological cancer in children. Although risk-adaptive therapy, CNS-directed chemotherapy, and supportive care have improved the survival of ALL patients, disease relapse is still the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Therefore, new drugs are needed as frontline treatments in high-risk disease and as salvage agents in relapsed ALL. In this study, we report that purified sulforaphane, a natural isothiocyanate found in cruciferous vegetables, has anti-leukemic properties in a broad range of ALL cell lines and primary lymphoblasts from pediatric T-ALL and pre-B ALL patients. The treatment of ALL leukemic cells with sulforaphane resulted in dose-dependent apoptosis and G2/M cell cycle arrest, which was associated with the activation of caspases (3, 8, and 9), inactivation of PARP, p53-independent upregulation of p21CIP1/WAF1, and inhibition of the Cdc2/Cyclin B1 complex. Interestingly, sulforaphane also inhibited the AKT and mTOR survival pathways in most of the tested cell lines by lowering the levels of both total and phosphorylated proteins. Finally, the administration of sulforaphane to the ALL xenograft models resulted in a reduction of tumor burden, particularly following oral administration, suggesting a potential role as an adjunctive agent to improve the therapeutic response in high-risk ALL patients with activated AKT signaling.
WNT7a, a member of the Wnt ligand family implicated in several developmental processes, has also been reported to be dysregulated in some types of tumors; however, its function and implication in oncogenesis is poorly understood. Moreover, the expression of this gene and the role that it plays in the biology of blood cells remains unclear. In addition to determining the expression of the WNT7A gene in blood cells, in leukemia-derived cell lines, and in samples of patients with leukemia, the aim of this study was to seek the effect of this gene in proliferation.
We analyzed peripheral blood mononuclear cells, sorted CD3 and CD19 cells, four leukemia-derived cell lines, and blood samples from 14 patients with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and 19 clinically healthy subjects. Reverse transcription followed by quantitative Real-time Polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis were performed to determine relative WNT7A expression. Restoration of WNT7a was done employing a lentiviral system and by using a recombinant human protein. Cell proliferation was measured by addition of WST-1 to cell cultures.
WNT7a is mainly produced by CD3 T-lymphocytes, its expression decreases upon activation, and it is severely reduced in leukemia-derived cell lines, as well as in the blood samples of patients with ALL when compared with healthy controls (p ≤0.001). By restoring WNT7A expression in leukemia-derived cells, we were able to demonstrate that WNT7a inhibits cell growth. A similar effect was observed when a recombinant human WNT7a protein was used. Interestingly, restoration of WNT7A expression in Jurkat cells did not activate the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway.
To our knowledge, this is the first report evidencing quantitatively decreased WNT7A levels in leukemia-derived cells and that WNT7A restoration in T-lymphocytes inhibits cell proliferation. In addition, our results also support the possible function of WNT7A as a tumor suppressor gene as well as a therapeutic tool.
WNT7A; Wnt signaling; Leukemia; Anti-proliferative; Non-canonical pathway
The generation of antisera directed against leukocyte differentiation antigens opened the possibility of studying minimal residual disease (MRD) in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). During the three decades that followed the pioneering studies in this field, great progress has been made in the development of a wide array of monoclonal antibodies and of flow cytometric techniques for rare event detection. This advance was accompanied by an increasingly greater understanding of the immunophenotypic features of leukemic and normal lymphoid cells, and of the antigenic differences that make MRD studies possible. In parallel, molecular methods for MRD detection were established. The systematic application of immunologic and molecular techniques to study MRD in clinical samples has demonstrated the clinical significance of MRD in patients leading to the use of MRD to regulate treatment intensity in many contemporary treatment protocols. In this article, we discuss methodologic issues related to the immunologic monitoring of MRD and the evidence supporting its clinical significance, and compare the advantages and limitations of this approach to those of molecular monitoring of MRD.
acute lymphoblastic leukemia; minimal residual disease; flow cytometry; polymerase chain reaction
Childhood leukemia is characterized by the presence of balanced chromosomal translocations or by other structural or numerical chromosomal changes. It is well know that leukemias with specific molecular abnormalities display profoundly different global gene expression profiles. However, it is largely unknown whether such subtype-specific leukemic signatures are unique or if they are active also in non-hematopoietic normal tissues or in other human cancer types.
Using gene set enrichment analysis, we systematically explored whether the transcriptional programs in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and myeloid leukemia (AML) were significantly similar to those in different flow-sorted subpopulations of normal hematopoietic cells (n = 8), normal non-hematopoietic tissues (n = 22) or human cancer tissues (n = 13).
This study revealed that e.g., the t(12;21) [ETV6-RUNX1] subtype of ALL and the t(15;17) [PML-RARA] subtype of AML had transcriptional programs similar to those in normal Pro-B cells and promyelocytes, respectively. Moreover, the 11q23/MLL subtype of ALL showed similarities with non-hematopoietic tissues. Strikingly however, most of the transcriptional programs in the other leukemic subtypes lacked significant similarity to ~100 gene sets derived from normal and malignant tissues.
This study demonstrates, for the first time, that the expression profiles of childhood leukemia are largely unique, with limited similarities to transcriptional programs active in normal hematopoietic cells, non-hematopoietic normal tissues or the most common forms of human cancer. In addition to providing important pathogenetic insights, these findings should facilitate the identification of candidate genes or transcriptional programs that can be used as unique targets in leukemia.
Despite impressive advances in cure rates for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), ALL remains the leading cause of disease-related death in young people and new therapeutic approaches directed against rational therapeutic targets are urgently required to improve treatment outcomes. This is particularly true for ALL in older children, adolescents, and adults, in whom treatment outcomes are markedly inferior to those of young children. A major goal of current leukemia research is to use comprehensive genomic analysis of the leukemic cell genome, transcriptome, and epigenome to identify critical new genomic alterations that drive leukemogenesis and influence responsiveness to therapy. Genomic analyses in childhood ALL have been remarkably informative and have identified a number of new structural genetic alterations that play important roles in the establishment of the leukemic clone and determine risk of relapse. Notably, many high-risk ALL cases harbor loss-of-function and dominant mutations of genes that encode transcriptional regulators of lymphoid development coupled with mutations that result in activation of cytokine receptor and kinase signaling pathways. These advances have resulted in new diagnostic approaches and therapeutic trials in ALL. This review will discuss these advances and outline challenges for future studies, including the potential role of genome-wide sequencing approaches and the need for detailed studies of the genetics of ALL in the adolescent and young adult population.
Acute leukemias are clonal disorders of hematopoiesis wherein a leukemic stem cell (LSC) acquires mutations that confer the capacity for unlimited self-renewal, impaired hematopoietic differentiation, and enhanced proliferation to the leukemic clone. Many recent advances in understanding the biology of leukemia have come from studies defining specific genetic and epigenetic abnormalities in leukemic cells. Three recent articles, however, further our understanding of leukemia biology by elucidating specific abnormalities in metabolic pathways in leukemic hematopoiesis. These studies potentially converge on the concept that modulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) abundance may influence the pathogenesis and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
The identification of activating mutations in NOTCH1 in over 50% of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL) has generated major interest in the elucidation of the mechanisms of transformation downstream of oncogenic NOTCH and in the targeting of the NOTCH signaling pathway in this disease. Small molecule γ-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) block NOTCH1 signaling in T-ALL lymphoblasts, yet, the clinical development of GSIs has been held back by the development of gastrointestinal toxicity and their weak antileukemic effects against human T-ALL. However, new therapeutic strategies aiming to optimize the use of anti-NOTCH1 therapies for T-ALL, including combination therapies with molecularly targeted drugs and glucocorticoids, have started to emerge as result of improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms that mediate the effects of GSIs in leukemic cells and the intestinal epithelium. This review focuses on the molecular basis of NOTCH1-induced transformation, the mechanisms of action of oncogenic NOTCH1 and clinical significance of NOTCH1 mutations in T-ALL.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been proved to play an important role in various cellular processes and function as tumor suppressors or oncogenes in cancers including leukemia. The identification of a large number of novel miRNAs and other small regulatory RNAs will provide valuable insights into the roles they play in tumorgenesis.
To gain further understanding of the role of miRNAs relevant to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), we employed the sequencing-by-synthesis (SBS) strategy to sequence small RNA libraries prepared from ALL patients and normal donors. In total we identified 159 novel miRNAs and 116 novel miRNA*s from both libraries. Among the 159 novel miRNAs, 42 were identified with high stringency in our data set. Furthermore, we demonstrated the different expression patterns of 20 newly identified and several known miRNAs between ALL patients and normal donors, suggesting these miRNAs may be associated with ALL and could constitute an ALL-specific miRNA signature. Interestingly, GO “biological process” classifications revealed that a set of significantly abnormally expressed miRNAs are associated with disease relapse, which implies that these dysregulated miRNAs might promote the progression of ALL by regulating genes involved in the pathway of the disease development.
The study presents a comprehensive picture of the expression of small RNAs in human acute lymphoblastic leukemia and highlights novel and known miRNAs differentially expressed between ALL patients and normal donors. To our knowledge, this is the first study to look at genome-wide known and novel miRNA expression patterns in in human acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Our data revealed that these deregulated miRNAs may be associated with ALL or the onset of relapse.
The Three-amino acid-loop-extension (TALE) superfamily of homeodomain-containing transcription factors have been implicated in normal hematopoiesis and in leukemogenesis and are important survival, differentiation, and apoptosis pathway modulators. In this work, we determined the expression levels of TALE genes in leukemic-derived cell lines, in blood samples of patients with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and in the blood samples of healthy donors.
Here we show increased expression of MEIS1, MEIS2, and PREP1 genes in leukemia-derived cell lines compared with blood normal cells. High levels of MEIS1 and PREP1, and low levels of PBX4 expression were also founded in samples of patients with ALL. Importantly, silencing of MEIS1 decreases the proliferation of leukemia-derived cells but increases their survival after etoposide treatment. Etoposide-induced apoptosis induces down-regulation of MEIS1 expression or PREP1 up-regulation in chemotherapy-resistant cells.
Our results indicate that up-regulation of MEIS1 is important for sustaining proliferation of leukemic cells and that down-regulation of MEIS1 or up-regulation of PREP1 and PBX genes could be implicated in the modulation of the cellular response to chemotherapeutic-induced apoptosis.
TALE genes; leukemia; MEIS1; PREP1; PBX; Apoptosis
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most frequent malignancy of childhood. Substantial progress on understanding the cell hierarchy within ALL bone marrow (BM) has been recorded in the last few years, suggesting that both primitive cell fractions and committed lymphoid blasts with immature stem cell-like properties contain leukemia-initiating cells. Nevertheless, the biology of the early progenitors that initiate the lymphoid program remains elusive. The aim of the present study was to investigate the ability of lymphoid progenitors from B-cell precursor ALL BM to proliferate and undergo multilineage differentiation. By phenotype analyses, in vitro proliferation assays, and controlled culture systems, the lymphoid differentiation potentials were evaluated in BM primitive populations from B-cell precursor ALL pediatric patients. When compared to their normal counterparts, functional stem and progenitor cell contents were substantially reduced in ALL BM. Moreover, neither B nor NK or dendritic lymphoid-cell populations developed recurrently from highly purified ALL-lymphoid progenitors, and their proliferation and cell cycle status revealed limited proliferative capacity. Interestingly, a number of quiescence-associated transcription factors were elevated, including the transcriptional repressor Gfi-1, which was highly expressed in primitive CD34+ cells. Together, our findings reveal major functional defects in the primitive hematopoietic component of ALL BM. A possible contribution of high levels of Gfi-1 expression in the regulation of the stem/progenitor cell biology is suggested.
Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is known as a growth factor for pre B-cell and mature T-cells in human. But in leukemic cells, IL-7 effect is variously reported. To investigate the effect of IL-7 on the cells of childhood acute leukemia we used 3H-Thymidine assay. Twelve Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), seven T-ALL and three Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) were involved in this study. Two out of twelve ALL and three out of seven T-ALL bone marrow (BM) cells were stimulated by IL-7 in 3H-Thymidine incorporation. In normal and AML BM cells, IL-7 had no stimulatory activity as in various leukemic cell lines. Two normal peripheral blood T-cells responded to IL-7 dose dependently. We have seen the effect of IL-7 to stimulate T-lineage cells but, for precise conclusion, further study using more purified samples will be needed.
All cells respond to signals from the environment. Extracellular stimuli activate intracellular signal transduction pathways that make decisions about cell identity, behavior, and survival. A nascent field aims to design and construct new signaling pathways beyond those found in nature. Current strategies exploit the structural modularity of many signaling proteins, which makes them inherently amenable to domain swapping tactics that exchange their input and output connections. The results reveal a remarkable degree of functional plasticity in signaling proteins and pathways, as well as regulatory logic that can be transported to new proteins. Modified adaptor and scaffold proteins can reroute signal traffic and adjust the response behavior of the pathway circuit. These synthetic biology approaches promise to deepen our understanding of existing signaling pathways and spur development of new cellular tools for research, industry, and medicine.
Normal and aberrant immune receptor gene assembly each produce site-specific DNA rearrangements in leukemic lymphoblasts. In either case, these rearrangements provide useful clonal markers for the leukemias in question. In the t(1;14)(p34;q11) translocation associated with T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), the breakpoints on chromosome 1 interrupt the tal-1 gene. A site-specific deletion interrupts the same gene in an additional 26% of T-ALL. Thus, nearly one-third of these leukemias contain clustered rearrangements of the tal-1 locus. To test whether these rearrangements can serve as markers for residual disease, we monitored four patients with T-ALL; three of the leukemias contained a deleted (tald) and one a translocated (talt) tal-1 allele. These alleles were recognized by a sensitive amplification/hybridization assay. tald alleles were found in the blood of one patient during the 4th mo of treatment but not thereafter. Using a quantitative assay to measure the fraction of tald alleles in DNA extracts, we estimated that this month 4 sample contained 150 tald copies per 10(6) genome copies. The patient with t(1;14)(p34;q11) (talt) leukemia developed a positive assay during the 20th mo of treatment. By standard criteria, all four patients remain in complete remission 11-20 mo into treatment. We conclude that tal-1 rearrangements provide useful clonal markers for approximately 30% of T-ALLs.
Acute leukemias are the most common cancer in childhood and characterized by the uncontrolled production of hematopoietic precursor cells of the lymphoid or myeloid series within the bone marrow. Even when a relatively high efficiency of therapeutic agents has increased the overall survival rates in the last years, factors such as cell lineage switching and the rise of mixed lineages at relapses often change the prognosis of the illness. During lineage switching, conversions from lymphoblastic leukemia to myeloid leukemia, or vice versa, are recorded. The central mechanisms involved in these phenomena remain undefined, but recent studies suggest that lineage commitment of plastic hematopoietic progenitors may be multidirectional and reversible upon specific signals provided by both intrinsic and environmental cues. In this paper, we focus on the current knowledge about cell heterogeneity and the lineage switch resulting from leukemic cells plasticity. A number of hypothetical mechanisms that may inspire changes in cell fate decisions are highlighted. Understanding the plasticity of leukemia initiating cells might be fundamental to unravel the pathogenesis of lineage switch in acute leukemias and will illuminate the importance of a flexible hematopoietic development.
Tumor-specific antigens for leukemia cells have been sought for the past decades, but none of cell surface markers met sufficient criteria as a 'phenotypic signature'. Here we suggest that JL1 antigen can be efficiently used for diagnosis and treatment. JL1 is a human thymocyte differentiation antigen strictly confined to a CD4+CD8+ double positive subpopulation of cortical thymocytes. Despite its restricted distribution in normal tissues and cells, the expression of JL1 is highly associated with hematopoietic malignancies, particularly various types of leukemia such as T-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), non-T-ALL, and acute myelocytic leukemia (AML). The expression of JL1 antigen was observed in 75.6% of leukemic cases (117 out of 154 leukemic patients tested) with a high mean fluorescence intensity on flow cytometric analysis and confirmed by immunoblotting. Since JL1 antigen is selectively expressed on the surface of human leukemic cells, but not on mature human peripheral blood cells and normal bone marrow cells, anti-JL1 mAb can be used as a reagent of choice in the routine diagnosis of various types of leukemia, providing an excellent candidate for the treatment of these diseases.
B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) is the most common childhood tumor and the leading cause of cancer-related death in children and young adults. The majority of B-ALL cases are aneuploid or harbor recurring structural chromosomal rearrangements that are important initiating events in leukemogenesis but are insufficient to explain the biology and heterogeneity of disease. Recent studies have used microarrays and sequencing to comprehensively identify all somatic genetic alterations in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). These studies have identified cryptic or submicroscopic genetic alterations that define new ALL subtypes, cooperate with known chromosomal rearrangements, and influence prognosis. This article reviews these advances, discusses results from ongoing second-generation sequencing studies of ALL, and highlights challenges and opportunities for future genetic profiling approaches.
We review recent advances in the biologic understanding and treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), identify therapeutically challenging subgroups, and suggest future directions of research.
A review of English literature on childhood acute leukemias from the past 5 years was performed.
Contemporary treatments have resulted in 5-year event-free survival rates of approximately 80% for childhood ALL and almost 60% for pediatric AML. The advent of high-resolution genome-wide analyses has provided new insights into leukemogenesis and identified many novel subtypes of leukemia. Virtually all ALL and the vast majority of AML cases can be classified according to specific genetic abnormalities. Cooperative mutations involved in cell differentiation, cell cycle regulation, tumor suppression, drug responsiveness, and apoptosis have also been identified in many cases. The development of new formulations of existing drugs, molecularly targeted therapy, and immunotherapies promises to further advance the cure rates and improve quality of life of patients.
The application of new high-throughput sequencing techniques to define the complete DNA sequence of leukemia and host normal cells and the development of new agents targeted to leukemogenic pathways promise to further improve outcome in the coming decade.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children. The current treatment protocol for ALL involves an intense chemotherapy regimen yielding cure rates of nearly 80%. However, new therapies need to be designed not only to increase the survival rate but also to combat the risk of severe therapy associated toxicities including secondary malignancies, growth problems, organ damage, and infertility. The c-Myb proto-oncogene is highly expressed in immature hematopoietic cells. In this study, we demonstrate that loss of c-Myb itself decreased the viability of these leukemic cells. Additionally, the inhibition of c-Myb caused a decrease in cell proliferation, significantly increased the number of cells in G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle, increased the sensitivity of pre-B-ALL cells to cytotoxic agents in vitro, and significantly delayed disease onset in a mouse model of leukemia. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Bcl-2 is a target of c-Myb in pre-B-ALL cells. Our results identify c-Myb as a potential therapeutic target in pre-B-ALL and suggest that suppression of c-Myb levels or activity, in combination with currently used therapies and/or dose reduction, may lead to a decrease in toxicity and an increase in patient survival rates. Because c-Myb is aberrantly expressed in several other malignancies, targeting c-Myb will have broad clinical applications.
MLL-AF4 fusion is a hallmark genetic abnormality in infant B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) known to arise in utero. The cellular origin of leukemic fusion genes during human development is difficult to ascertain. The bone marrow (BM) microenvironment plays an important role in the pathogenesis of several hematological malignances. BM mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC) from 38 children diagnosed with cytogenetically different acute leukemias were screened for leukemic fusion genes. Fusion genes were absent in BM-MSCs of childhood leukemias carrying TEL-AML1, BCR-ABL, AML1-ETO, MLL-AF9, MLL-AF10, MLL-ENL or hyperdiploidy. However, MLL-AF4 was detected and expressed in BM-MSCs from all cases of MLL-AF4+ B-ALL. Unlike leukemic blasts, MLL-AF4+ BM-MSCs did not display monoclonal Ig gene rearrangements. Endogenous or ectopic expression of MLL-AF4 exerted no effect on MSC culture homeostasis. These findings suggest that MSCs may be in part tumor-related, highlighting an unrecognized role of the BM milieu on the pathogenesis of MLL-AF4+ B-ALL. MLL-AF4 itself is not sufficient for MSC transformation and the expression of MLL-AF4 in MSCs is compatible with a mesenchymal phenotype, suggesting a differential impact in the hematopoietic system and mesenchyme. The absence of monoclonal rearrangements in MLL-AF4+ BM-MSCs precludes the possibility of cellular plasticity or de-differentiation of B-ALL blasts and suggests that MLL-AF4 might arise in a population of prehematopoietic precursors.