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1.  Epigenetics Meets Genetics in Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Clinical Impact of a Novel Seven-Gene Score 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2013;32(6):548-556.
Purpose
Molecular risk stratification of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is largely based on genetic markers. However, epigenetic changes, including DNA methylation, deregulate gene expression and may also have prognostic impact. We evaluated the clinical relevance of integrating DNA methylation and genetic information in AML.
Methods
Next-generation sequencing analysis of methylated DNA identified differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with prognostic mutations in older (≥ 60 years) cytogenetically normal (CN) patients with AML (n = 134). Genes with promoter DMRs and expression levels significantly associated with outcome were used to compute a prognostic gene expression weighted summary score that was tested and validated in four independent patient sets (n = 355).
Results
In the training set, we identified seven genes (CD34, RHOC, SCRN1, F2RL1, FAM92A1, MIR155HG, and VWA8) with promoter DMRs and expression associated with overall survival (OS; P ≤ .001). Each gene had high DMR methylation and lower expression, which were associated with better outcome. A weighted summary expression score of the seven gene expression levels was computed. A low score was associated with a higher complete remission (CR) rate and longer disease-free survival and OS (P < .001 for all end points). This was validated in multivariable models and in two younger (< 60 years) and two older independent sets of patients with CN-AML. Considering the seven genes individually, the fewer the genes with high expression, the better the outcome. Younger and older patients with no genes or one gene with high expression had the best outcomes (CR rate, 94% and 87%, respectively; 3-year OS, 80% and 42%, respectively).
Conclusion
A seven-gene score encompassing epigenetic and genetic prognostic information identifies novel AML subsets that are meaningful for treatment guidance.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.50.6337
PMCID: PMC3918538  PMID: 24378410
2.  Higher Doses of Lenalidomide Are Associated With Unacceptable Toxicity Including Life-Threatening Tumor Flare in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 
Purpose
Lenalidomide is a novel therapeutic agent with uncertain mechanism of action that is clinically active in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and multiple myeloma (MM). Application of high (MM) and low (MDS) doses of lenalidomide has been reported to have clinical activity in CLL. Herein, we highlight life-threatening tumor flare when higher doses of lenalidomide are administered to patients with CLL and provide a potential mechanism for its occurrence.
Patients and Methods
Four patients with relapsed CLL were treated with lenalidomide (25 mg/d for 21 days of a 28-day cycle). Serious adverse events including tumor flare and tumor lysis are summarized. In vitro studies examining drug-induced apoptosis and activation of CLL cells were also performed.
Results
Four consecutive patients were treated with lenalidomide; all had serious adverse events. Tumor flare was observed in three patients and was characterized by dramatic and painful lymph node enlargement resulting in hospitalization of two patients, with one fatal outcome. Another patient developed sepsis and renal failure. In vitro studies demonstrated lenalidomide-induced B-cell activation (upregulation of CD40 and CD86) corresponding to degree of tumor flare, possibly explaining the tumor flare observation.
Conclusion
Lenalidomide administered at 25 mg/d in relapsed CLL is associated with unacceptable toxicity; the rapid onset and adverse clinical effects of tumor flare represent a significant limitation of lenalidomide use in CLL at this dose. Drug-associated B-cell activation may contribute to this adverse event. Future studies with lenalidomide in CLL should focus on understanding this toxicity, investigating patients at risk, and investigating alternative safer dosing schedules.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.13.9709
PMCID: PMC4312490  PMID: 18427150
3.  Chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients with high-risk genomic features have inferior outcome on successive CALGB trials with alemtuzumab consolidation: subgroup analysis from CALGB 19901 and CALGB 10101 
Leukemia & lymphoma  2013;54(12):10.3109/10428194.2013.788179.
Alemtuzumab consolidation has been investigated to improve remission duration after fludarabine-based induction for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The impact on genomic high-risk disease remains unknown. CALGB 19901 and 10101 enrolled previously untreated patients to receive alemtuzumab consolidation after fludarabine-based induction. Immunoglobulin heavy chain gene mutation status (IGVH) and interphase cytogenetics were assessed retrospectively. Treatment response with these alemtuzumab-containing regimens was similar, regardless of genomic risk, except for patients harboring del(17p), where few complete remissions were observed. PFS was similar between IGVH groups, but OS was inferior in IGVH unmutated patients (P=0.03). Cytogenetic risk group was associated with PFS and OS (P=0.01 for both), with similarly short PFS in del(17p) and del(11q) and particularly short OS in del(17p) patients. Cytogenetic risk group remained signficantly associated with PFS and OS when controlling for other prognostic factors (PFS: P=0.009; OS: P=0.02), as did the negative association of IGVH unmutated disease with OS (P=0.004). Results were similar when restricting to patients who received at least one dose of alemtuzumab consolidation, demonstrating limited ability to overcome the poor outcome associated with high-risk genetic features.
doi:10.3109/10428194.2013.788179
PMCID: PMC3766417  PMID: 23547837
CLL; alemtuzumab; clinical trial; cytogenetics; immunoglobulin genes
4.  Identification of endoplasmic reticulum stress-inducing agents by antagonizing autophagy: a new potential strategy for identification of anti-cancer therapeutics in B-cell malignancies 
Leukemia & lymphoma  2013;54(12):10.3109/10428194.2013.781168.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a vital function in multiple cellular processes. There is a growing interest in developing therapeutic agents that can target the ER in cancer cells, inducing a stress response that leads to cell death. However, ER stress-inducing agents can also induce autophagy, a survival strategy of cancer cells. Therefore, by inhibiting autophagy we can increase the efficacy of the ER stress-inducing agents. Nelfinavir, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease inhibitor with anti-cancer properties, can induce ER stress. Nelfinavir’s effects on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are yet to be elucidated. Herein we demonstrate that nelfinavir induces ER morphological changes and stress response, along with an autophagic protective strategy. Our data reveal that chloroquine, an autophagy inhibitor, significantly increases nelfinavir cytotoxicity. These results identify a novel strategy potentially effective in CLL treatment, by repositioning two well-known drugs as a combinatorial therapy with anti-cancer properties.
doi:10.3109/10428194.2013.781168
PMCID: PMC3815958  PMID: 23469959
Nelfinavir; autophagy; ER stress; drug screening; chronic lymphocytic leukemia
6.  A dose escalation feasibility study of lenalidomide for treatment of symptomatic, relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia☆ 
Leukemia research  2014;38(9):1025-1029.
Adequate dosing of lenalidomide in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) remains unclear. This study determined maximum tolerated dose (MTD) in relapsed CLL patients (Cohort A) and patients achieving a partial response (PR) or better to recent therapy (Cohort B). Thirty-seven patients were enrolled. MTD was 2.5 mg followed by 5.0 mg continuous. In Cohort A, tumor flare grade 1–2 occurred in 15 patients (50%) and grade 3 in 1 patient (3%). Cohort A had 19 of 23 evaluable (83%) patients, 4 PR (17%) and 15 (65%) stable disease (SD), Cohort B had 6 of 7 patients (86%) with SD. Despite overall response rate not being high, many patients remained on therapy several months with SD.
doi:10.1016/j.leukres.2014.05.011
PMCID: PMC4312491  PMID: 25082342
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia; Relapse; Lenalidomide; Tumor flare; Maintenance
7.  Phase I study of GTI-2040, a ribonucleotide reductase antisense, with high dose cytarabine in patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia 
Leukemia & lymphoma  2013;55(6):1332-1336.
We hypothesized that GTI-2040, a 20-mer oligonucleotide complementary to the R2 subunit mRNA of ribonucleotide reductase, combined with high dose cytarabine (HiDAC) would result in enhanced cytotoxicity by favoring Ara-CTP DNA incorporation. In a phase I dose escalation trial, adults (≥60 years) with refractory or relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) received daily HiDAC plus infusional GTI-2040. Using a novel assay, evidence of intracellular drug accumulation and target R2 down-regulation was observed. GTI-2040/HiDAC can be administered safely. However, with no complete remissions observed, alternative doses and schedules may need to be investigated to achieve clinical activity in older patients with AML.
doi:10.3109/10428194.2013.838764
PMCID: PMC4298748  PMID: 24015841
Acute myeloid leukemia; antisense therapy; phase I study; GTI-2040; ribonucleotide reductase
8.  Sensitive Liquid Chromatography/mass Spectrometry Methods for Quantification of Pomalidomide in Mouse Plasma and Brain Tissue 
Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis  2013;88:10.1016/j.jpba.2013.08.036.
Pomalidomide was recently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have received at least two prior therapies. As pomalidomide is increasingly evaluated in other diseases and animal disease models, this manuscript presents development and validation of a sensitive liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry assay for quantification of pomalidomide in mouse plasma and brain tissue to fill a gap in published preclinical pharmacokinetic and analytical data with this agent. After acetonitrile protein precipitation, pomalidomide and internal standard, hesperitin, were separated with reverse phase chromatography on a C-18 column with a gradient mobile phase of water and acetonitrile with 0.1% fomic acid. Positive atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry with selected reaction monitoring mode was applied to achieve 0.3–3000 nM (0.082–819.73 ng/mL) linear range in mouse plasma and 0.6–6000 pmol/g in brain tissue. The within- and between-batch accuracy and precision were less than 15% for both plasma and brain tissue. The method was applied to measure pomalidomide concentrations in plasma and brain tissue in a pilot mouse pharmacokinetic study with an intravenous dose of 0.5 mg/kg. This assay can be applied for thorough characterization of pomalidomide pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution in mice.
doi:10.1016/j.jpba.2013.08.036
PMCID: PMC3860284  PMID: 24095801
Pomalidomide; Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry; Mouse; Plasma; Brain; Pharmacokinetics
9.  The CD37-targeted antibody-drug conjugate IMGN529 is highly active against human CLL and in a novel CD37 transgenic murine leukemia model 
Leukemia  2014;28(7):1501-1510.
Therapeutic regimens for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have increasingly utilized monoclonal antibodies since the chimeric anti-CD20 antibody rituximab was introduced. Despite improved clinical outcomes, current CLL therapies are not curative. Therefore, antibodies with greater efficacy and novel targets are desirable. One promising target is CD37, a tetraspanin protein highly expressed on malignant B-cells in CLL and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While several novel CD37-directed therapeutics are emerging, detailed preclinical evaluation of these agents is limited by lack of appropriate animal models with spontaneous leukemia expressing the human CD37 (hCD37) target. To address this, we generated a murine CLL model that develops transplantable hCD37+ leukemia. Subsequently, we engrafted healthy mice with this leukemia to evaluate IMGN529, a novel hCD37-targeting antibody-drug conjugate. IMGN529 rapidly eliminated peripheral blood leukemia and improved overall survival. In contrast, the antibody component of IMGN529 could not alter disease course despite exhibiting substantial in vitro cytotoxicity. Furthermore, IMGN529 is directly cytotoxic to human CLL in vitro, depletes B-cells in patient whole blood, and promotes killing by macrophages and NK cells. Our results demonstrate the utility of a novel mouse model for evaluating anti-human CD37 therapeutics and highlight the potential of IMGN529 for treatment of CLL and other CD37-positive B-cell malignancies.
doi:10.1038/leu.2014.32
PMCID: PMC4090271  PMID: 24445867
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia; antibody-drug conjugate; CD37
10.  Emerging Drug Profile: Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitors 
Leukemia & lymphoma  2013;54(10):2133-2143.
As the rational application of targeted therapies in cancer supplants traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy, there is an ever-greater need for a thorough understanding of the complex machinery of the cell and an application of this knowledge to the development of novel therapeutics and combinations of agents. Here, we review the current state of knowledge of the class of targeted agents known as cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, with a focus on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Flavopiridol (alvocidib) is the best studied of the CDK inhibitors, producing a dramatic cytotoxic effect in vitro and in vivo, with the principal limiting factor of acute tumor lysis. Unfortunately, flavopiridol has a narrow therapeutic window and is relatively non-selective with several off-target (i.e. non-CDK) effects, which prompted development of the second-generation CDK inhibitor dinaciclib. Dinaciclib appears to be both more potent and selective than flavopiridol, with at least an order of magnitude greater therapeutic index, and is currently in phase III clinical trials. In additional to flavopiridol and dinaciclib, we also review the current state of other members of this class, and provide commentary as to the future direction of combination therapy including CDK inhibitors.
doi:10.3109/10428194.2013.783911
PMCID: PMC3778156  PMID: 23488658
Pharmacotherapeutics; Chemotherapeutic approaches; Cell cycle and apoptosis changes; Lymphoid Leukemia; Lymphoma and Hodgkin disease
11.  Resistance Mechanisms for the Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor Ibrutinib 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;370(24):2286-2294.
BACKGROUND
Ibrutinib is an irreversible inhibitor of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) and is effective in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Resistance to irreversible kinase inhibitors and resistance associated with BTK inhibition have not been characterized. Although only a small proportion of patients have had a relapse during ibrutinib therapy, an understanding of resistance mechanisms is important. We evaluated patients with relapsed disease to identify mutations that may mediate ibrutinib resistance.
METHODS
We performed whole-exome sequencing at baseline and the time of relapse on samples from six patients with acquired resistance to ibrutinib therapy. We then performed functional analysis of identified mutations. In addition, we performed Ion Torrent sequencing for identified resistance mutations on samples from nine patients with prolonged lymphocytosis.
RESULTS
We identified a cysteine-to-serine mutation in BTK at the binding site of ibrutinib in five patients and identified three distinct mutations in PLCγ2 in two patients. Functional analysis showed that the C481S mutation of BTK results in a protein that is only reversibly inhibited by ibrutinib. The R665W and L845F mutations in PLCγ2 are both potentially gain-of-function mutations that lead to autonomous B-cell–receptor activity. These mutations were not found in any of the patients with prolonged lymphocytosis who were taking ibrutinib.
CONCLUSIONS
Resistance to the irreversible BTK inhibitor ibrutinib often involves mutation of a cysteine residue where ibrutinib binding occurs. This finding, combined with two additional mutations in PLCγ2 that are immediately downstream of BTK, underscores the importance of the B-cell–receptor pathway in the mechanism of action of ibrutinib in CLL. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and others.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1400029
PMCID: PMC4144824  PMID: 24869598
12.  Detection of extracellular RNAs in cancer and viral infection via tethered cationic lipoplex nanoparticles containing molecular beacons 
Analytical chemistry  2013;85(23):11265-11274.
Non-invasive early detection methods have the potential to reduce mortality rates of both cancer and infectious diseases. Here, we present a novel assay by which tethered cationic lipoplex nanoparticles containing molecular beacons (MBs) can capture cancer cell-derived exosomes or viruses, and identify encapsulated RNAs in a single step. A series of ultracentrifugation and Exoquick™ isolation kit were first used to isolate exosomes from the cell culture medium and human serum respectively. Cationic lipoplex nanoparticles linked onto the surface of a thin glass plate capture negatively charged viruses or cell-secreted exosomes by electrostatic interactions to form larger nanoscale complexes. Lipoplex/virus or lipoplex/exosome fusion leads to the mixing of viral/exosomal RNAs and MBs within the lipoplexes. After the target RNAs specially bind to the MBs, exosomes enriched in target RNAs are readily identified by the fluorescence signals of MBs. The in situ detection of target extracellular RNAs without diluting the samples leads to high detection sensitivity not achievable by existing methods, e.g. qRT-PCR. Here we demonstrate this concept using lentivirus and serum from lung cancer patients.
doi:10.1021/ac401983w
PMCID: PMC4121114  PMID: 24102152
lipoplex nanoparticles; exosome; extracellular RNA; cancer detection; viral infection
13.  Glycovariant anti-CD37 monospecific protein therapeutic exhibits enhanced effector cell-mediated cytotoxicity against chronic and acute B cell malignancies 
mAbs  2013;5(5):723-735.
TRU-016 is a SMIPTM (monospecific protein therapeutic) molecule against the tetraspanin transmembrane family protein CD37 that is currently in Phase 2 trials in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). In an attempt to enhance the ADCC function of SMIP-016, the chimeric version of TRU-016, SMIP-016GV was engineered with a modification in a glycosylation site in the Fc domain. The wild-type and glycovariant SMIP proteins mediate comparable Type I antibody-like direct cytotoxicity in the presence of anti-human Fc crosslinker and show a similar tyrosine phosphorylation pattern post-treatment. However, NK cells stimulated with the SMIP-016GV exhibit enhanced activation and release 3-fold more interferon-γ compared with SMIP-016. SMIP-016GV shows enhanced ADCC function against cells expressing CD37 with NK cell effectors derived from both normal and CLL-affected individuals. Enhanced ADCC is observed against CLL cells and is sustained at concentrations of SMIP-016GV as low at 5E−6 µg/mL on cells expressing minimal CD37 antigen. In support of the biological relevance of this, SMIP-016GV mediates effective ADCC against primary acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells with low surface expression of CD37. Collectively, these data suggest potential use of the novel therapeutic agent SMIP-016GV with enhanced effector function for B cell malignancies, including CLL and ALL therapy.
doi:10.4161/mabs.25282
PMCID: PMC3851225  PMID: 23883821
CD37; CLL; ALL; Protein Therapeutics
14.  A phase II trial of extended induction epratuzumab and rituximab for previously untreated follicular lymphoma: CALGB 50701 
Cancer  2013;119(21):10.1002/cncr.28299.
Rituximab combined with chemotherapy has improved the survival of previously untreated patients with follicular lymphoma (FL). Nevertheless, many patients neither want nor can tolerate chemotherapy, leading to interest in biological approaches. Epratuzumab is a humanized anti-CD22 monoclonal antibody with efficacy in relapsed FL. Since both rituximab and epratuzumab have single agent activity in FL, we evaluated the antibody combination as initial treatment of patients with FL.
Patients and Methods
Fifty-nine untreated patients with FL received epratuzumab 360 mg/m2 with rituximab 375 mg/m2 weekly for four induction doses. This combination was continued as extended induction in weeks 12, 20, 28, and 36. Response assessed by CT was correlated with clinical risk factors, FDG-PET findings at week 3, Fcg polymorphisms, immunohistochemical markers, and statin use.
Results
Therapy was well-tolerated with toxicities similar to expected with rituximab monotherapy. Fifty-two (88.2%) evaluable patients responded, including 25 complete responses (CR)(42.4%), and 27 partial responses (45.8%). At 3 years follow-up, 60% of patients remain in remission. Follicular Lymphoma International Prognostic Index (FLIPI) risk strongly predicted progression-free survival (p=0.022).
Conclusions
The high response rate and prolonged time to progression observed with this antibody combination are comparable to those observed after standard chemo-immunotherapies and further support the development of biologic, non-chemotherapeutic approaches for these patients.
doi:10.1002/cncr.28299
PMCID: PMC3828050  PMID: 23922187
15.  A Phase I/II Study of Etanercept and Rituximab in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma 
Leukemia  2009;23(5):912-918.
Rituximab has modest activity in relapsed Chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL) but is associated with TNF-α release that can cause CLL proliferation and inhibit apoptosis. We examined whether disruption of TNF-α by etanercept improves response to rituximab in CLL. Eligible patients had previously treated CLL with performance status 0–3. Patients received etanercept 25 mg subcutaneously twice weekly (weeks 1–5) and rituximab 375 mg/m2 intravenously thrice weekly (weeks 2–5) using a phase I/II design. Primary endpoints were response and toxicity. The 36 enrolled patients had a median of 2 prior treatments; 50% were fludarabine-refractory, and 22% had del(17p13.1). Of the 34 response-evaluable patients, ten (29%) responded, including 9 partial responses and 1 complete remission. Response was not affected by prior rituximab nor fludarabine-refractory status, but no patients with del(17p13.1) responded. Median PFS for responders was 9.0 months (range 1–43). Ten patients have had treatment-free intervals exceeding 12 months, including four who have remained untreated for 32, 43, 46 and 56 months. Adverse events were mild, including mild infusion reactions, transient cytopenias and grade 3 infections in 14%. The combination of etanercept and thrice weekly rituximab produces durable remissions in non-del(17p13.1) CLL patients and is well tolerated.
doi:10.1038/leu.2008.385
PMCID: PMC4099250  PMID: 19225537
Rituximab; Etanercept; chronic lymphocytic leukemia
16.  Isolation and analysis of linker histones across cellular compartments 
Journal of proteomics  2013;91:10.1016/j.jprot.2013.08.022.
Analysis of histones, especially histone H1, is severely limited by immunological reagent availability. This paper describes the application of cellular fractionation with LC-MS for profiling histones in the cytosol and upon chromatin. First, we show that linker histones enriched by cellular fractionation gives less nuclear contamination and higher histone content than when prepared by nuclei isolation. Second, we profiled the soluble linker histones throughout the cell cycle revealing phosphorylation increases as cells reach mitosis. Finally, we monitored histone H1.2–H1.5 translocation to the cytosol in response to the CDK inhibitor flavopiridol in primary CLL cells treated ex vivo. Data shows all H1 variants translocate in response to drug treatment with no specific order to their cytosolic appearance. The results illustrate the utility of cellular fractionation in conjunction with LC-MS for the analysis of histone H1 throughout the cell.
doi:10.1016/j.jprot.2013.08.022
PMCID: PMC3863389  PMID: 24013129
Histone H1; LC-MS; Cellular Compartmentalization
17.  Impact of Age on Outcomes After Initial Therapy With Chemotherapy and Different Chemoimmunotherapy Regimens in Patients With Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Results of Sequential Cancer and Leukemia Group B Studies 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2012;31(4):440-447.
Purpose
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a disease of the elderly, yet few clinical trials include a significant number of older patients, and outcomes after specific therapies can be different depending on age.
Patients and Methods
We examined patients enrolled onto successive first-line CALGB CLL trials to determine whether efficacy of regimens varied by age, focusing on ideal chemotherapy choice and benefit of immunotherapy addition to chemotherapy in older patients. Regimens included chlorambucil, fludarabine, fludarabine plus rituximab (FR), fludarabine with consolidation alemtuzumab, and FR with consolidation alemtuzumab.
Results
A total of 663 patients were evaluated for response, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival (OS) by age group. Interaction effects of fludarabine versus chlorambucil by age group (PFS, P = .046; OS, P = .006) showed that among patients younger than 70 years, PFS and OS was improved with fludarabine over chlorambucil (PFS: hazard ratio [HR] = 0.6, 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.8; OS: HR = 0.7, 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.9), but not in older adults (PFS, HR = 1.0, 95% CI, 0.6 to 1.7; OS: HR = 1.5, 95% CI, 0.9 to 2.3). In contrast, FR improved outcomes relative to fludarabine, irrespective of age (PFS: HR = 0.6, 95% CI, 0.4 to 0.7; OS: HR = 0.7, 95% CI, 0.5 to 0.9). Alemtuzumab consolidation did not provide benefit over similar regimens without alemtuzumab (P > .20), irrespective of age.
Conclusion
These data support the use of chlorambucil as an acceptable treatment for many older patients with CLL and suggest rituximab is beneficial regardless of age. These findings bear relevance to both routine care of CLL patients 70 years and older and also future clinical trials in this population.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2011.41.5646
PMCID: PMC3731920  PMID: 23233702
18.  FTY720 Shows Promising In vitro and In vivo Preclinical Activity by Downmodulating Cyclin D1 and Phospho-Akt in Mantle Cell Lymphoma 
Purpose
Despite the progress that has been made in the treatment of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), all patients invariably relapse with the currently available therapies. Because of the absence of curative therapy for MCL, we explored FTY720 as a novel agent against MCL.
Experimental Design
The cytotoxic effect of FTY720 in primary MCL tumor cells and cell lines were evaluated in vitro. The effects of FTY720 on caspase activation, generation of reactive oxygen species, and modulation of Cyclin D1 and Akt, which are implied in the pathogenesis of MCL, were investigated. The in vivo efficacy of FTY720 was evaluated in a Jeko-severe combined immunodeficient xenograft model of human MCL.
Results
FTY720 mediated time- and dose-dependent cytotoxicity in primary MCL tumor cells and MCL cell lines in vitro. FTY720-induced cytotoxicity occured independent of caspase activation but dependent on the generation of ROS in MCL. In addition, FTY720 treatment resulted in the time-dependent downmodulation of Cyclin D1 and accumulation of cells in G0-G1 and G2-M phases of the cell cycle with concomitant decrease in S-phase entry. Furthermore, concentrations of FTY720 that induced cytotoxicity led to decreased phospho-Akt in primary MCL cells and cell lines. Most importantly, the in vivo therapeutic activity of FTY720 was shown in severe combined immunodeficient mice engrafted with the Jeko MCL cell line.
Conclusions
These results provide the first evidence for a potential use of FTY720 in targeting key pathways that are operable in the pathogenesis of MCL and warrant further investigation of FTY720 in clinical trials to treat patients with MCL.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-2484
PMCID: PMC4180653  PMID: 20460491
19.  Arsenic trioxide and Ascorbic Acid Demonstrates Promising Activity against Primary Human CLL Cells in Vitro 
Leukemia research  2010;34(7):925-931.
The compromised antioxidant defense system in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) suggested a potential use for Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) generating Arsenic Trioxide (ATO) and Ascorbic Acid. While both ATO and ascorbic acid mediated cytotoxicity in CLL B cells as single agents, the efficacy of ATO is enhanced by ascorbic acid. This effect is dependent on increased ROS accumulation, as pretreatment of B-CLL cells with a glutathione reducing buthionine sulfoximine or catalase inhibiting aminotriazole, enhanced ATO/ascorbic acid mediated cytotoxicity. Petreatment with reducing agents such as catalase, or thiol anti-oxidant, N-acetyl cysteine or GSH also abrogated ATO/ascorbic acid mediated cytotoxicity. Furthermore, Hu1D10 mediated cell death was enhanced with ATO and ascorbic acid, thus justifying potential combination of ATO/arsenic trioxide therapy with antibodies such as Hu1D10 that also cause accumulation of ROS.
doi:10.1016/j.leukres.2010.01.020
PMCID: PMC4164821  PMID: 20171736
CLL; Arsenic trioxide; ascorbic acid
20.  The Proteasome Inhibitor Carfilzomib Functions Independently of p53 To Induce Cytotoxicity and an Atypical NF-κB Response in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Cells 
Purpose
The proteasome consists of chymotrypsin-like (CT-L), trypsin-like, and caspase-like subunits that cleave substrates preferentially by amino acid sequence. Proteasomes mediate degradation of regulatory proteins of the p53, Bcl-2 and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) families that are aberrantly active in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL remains an incurable disease, and new treatments are especially needed in the relapsed/refractory setting. We therefore investigated the effects of the proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib (CFZ) in CLL cells.
Experimental Design
Tumor cells from CLL patients were assayed in vitro using immunoblotting, real-time polymerase chain reaction and electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Additionally, a p53 dominant-negative construct was generated in a human B-cell line.
Results
Unlike bortezomib, CFZ potently induces apoptosis in CLL patient cells in the presence of human serum. CLL cells have significantly lower basal CT-L activity compared to normal B and T cells, although activity is inhibited similarly in T cells vs. CLL. and the cytotoxicity of CFZ correlates with baseline CT-L activity. Co-culture of CLL cells on stroma protected from CFZ-mediated cytotoxicity; however, PI3K inhibition significantly diminished this stromal protection. CFZ-mediated cytotoxicity in leukemic B-cells is caspase-dependent and occurs irrespective of p53 status. In CLL cells, CFZ promotes atypical activation of NF-κB evidenced by loss of cytoplasmic IkBα, phosphorylation of IκBα and increased p50/p65 DNA binding, without subsequent increases in canonical NF-κB target gene transcription.
Conclusions
Together, these data provide new mechanistic insights into the activity of CFZ in CLL and support Phase I investigation of CFZ in this disease.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-2754
PMCID: PMC3644010  PMID: 23515408
proteasome; carfilzomib; bortezomib; p53; NF-kB
21.  Evolution of DNA Methylation Is Linked to Genetic Aberrations in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 
Cancer discovery  2013;4(3):348-361.
Although clonal selection by genetic driver aberrations in cancer is well documented, the ability of epigenetic alterations to promote tumor evolution is undefined. We used 450k arrays and next-generation sequencing to evaluate intratumor heterogeneity and evolution of DNA methylation and genetic aberrations in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL cases exhibit vast interpatient differences in intratumor methylation heterogeneity, with genetically clonal cases maintaining low methylation heterogeneity and up to 10% of total CpGs in a monoallelically methylated state. Increasing methylation heterogeneity correlates with advanced genetic subclonal complexity. Selection of novel DNA methylation patterns is observed only in cases that undergo genetic evolution, and independent genetic evolution is uncommon and is restricted to low-risk alterations. These results reveal that although evolution of DNA methylation occurs in high-risk, clinically progressive cases, positive selection of novel methylation patterns entails coevolution of genetic alteration(s) in CLL.
doi:10.1158/2159-8290.CD-13-0349
PMCID: PMC4134522  PMID: 24356097
22.  Flavopiridol Can Be Safely Administered Using a Pharmacologically Derived Schedule and Demonstrates Activity in Relapsed and Refractory Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 
American journal of hematology  2013;89(1):19-24.
Flavopiridol is a broad cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor (CDKI) that induces apoptosis of malignant lymphocytes in vitro and in murine lymphoma models. We conducted a phase I dose-escalation study to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) for single-agent flavopiridol administered on a pharmacokinetically derived hybrid dosing schedule to patients with relapsed and refractory non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dose was escalated independently in one of four cohorts: indolent B-cell (cohort 1), mantle cell (cohort 2), intermediate grade B-cell including transformed lymphoma (cohort 3), and T-/NK-cell excluding primary cutaneous disease (cohort 4). Forty-six patients were accrued. Grade 3 or 4 leukopenia was observed in the majority of patients (60%), but infection was infrequent. Common non-hematologic toxicties included diarrhea and fatigue. Biochemical tumor lysis was observed in only 2 patients, and no patients required hemodialysis for its management. Dose escalation was completed in two cohorts (indolent and aggressive B-cell). Dose-limiting toxicities were not observed, and the MTD was not reached in either cohort at the highest dose tested (50 mg/m2 bolus + 50 mg/m2 continuous infusion weekly for 4 consecutive weeks of a 6 week cycle). Clinical benefit was observed in 26% of 43 patients evaluable for response, including 14% with partial responses (2 mantle cell, 3 indolent B-cell, and 1 diffuse large B-cell). The single-agent activity of this first-generation CDKI suggests that other agents in this class merit further study in lymphoid malignancies, both alone and in combination.
doi:10.1002/ajh.23568
PMCID: PMC4150545  PMID: 23959599
flavopiridol; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors; phase 1 trial; pharmacokinetics
23.  A novel liposomal formulation of FTY720 (Fingolimod) for promising enhanced targeted delivery 
We describe here the development and characterization of the physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties of a novel liposomal formulation for FTY720 delivery, LP-FTY720. The mean diameter of LP-FTY720 was ~157 nm, and the FTY720 entrapment efficiency was ~85%. The liposomal formulation protected FTY720 from degradation in aqueous buffer and showed toxicity in CLL patient B cells comparable to that of free FTY720. Following intravenous injection in ICR mice, LP-FTY720 had an increased elimination phase half-life (~28 vs. ~19 hr) and decreased clearance (235 vs. 778 mL/h/kg) compared to the free drug. Antibodies against CD19, CD20 and CD37 were incorporated into LP-FTY720, which provided targeted delivery to CLL patient B cells and thus achieved higher killing efficacy. The novel liposomal carrier of FTY720 demonstrated improved pharmacokinetic properties, comparable activity, and a potential platform for targeted delivery to CLL by overcoming the limited application of free FTY720 to B malignancy treatment.
doi:10.1016/j.nano.2013.08.001
PMCID: PMC4134520  PMID: 23969101
FTY720; Liposome; Leukemia; Drug delivery; CD37; Nanotechnology
24.  Ibrutinib as initial therapy for elderly patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma: an open-label, multicentre, phase 1b/2 trial 
The Lancet. Oncology  2013;15(1):48-58.
Summary
Background
Chemoimmunotherapy has led to improved numbers of patients achieving disease response, and longer overall survival in young patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia; however, its application in elderly patients has been restricted by substantial myelosuppression and infection. We aimed to assess safety and activity of ibrutinib, an orally administered covalent inhibitor of Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK), in treatment-naive patients aged 65 years and older with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.
Methods
In our open-label phase 1b/2 trial, we enrolled previously untreated patients at clinical sites in the USA. Eligible patients were aged at least 65 years, and had symptomatic chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma requiring therapy. Patients received 28 day cycles of once-daily ibrutinib 420 mg or ibrutinib 840 mg. The 840 mg dose was discontinued after enrolment had begun because comparable activity of the doses has been shown. The primary endpoint was the safety of the dose-fixed regimen in terms of frequency and severity of adverse events for all patients who received treatment. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01105247.
Findings
Between May 20, 2010, and Dec 18, 2012, we enrolled 29 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and two patients with small lymphocytic lymphoma. Median age was 71 years (range 65–84), and 23 (74%) patients were at least 70 years old. Toxicity was mainly of mild-to-moderate severity (grade 1–2). 21 (68%) patients had diarrhoea (grade 1 in 14 [45%] patients, grade 2 in three [10%] patients, and grade 3 in four [13%] patients). 15 (48%) patients developed nausea (grade 1 in 12 [39%] patients and grade 2 in three [10%] patients). Ten (32%) patients developed fatigue (grade 1 in five [16%] patients, grade 2 in four [13%] patients, and grade 3 in one [3%] patient). Three (10%) patients developed grade 3 infections, although no grade 4 or 5 infections occurred. One patient developed grade 3 neutropenia, and one developed grade 4 thrombocytopenia. After a median follow-up of 22·1 months (IQR 18·4–23·2), 22 (71%) of 31 patients achieved an objective response (95% CI 52·0–85·8); four patients (13%) had a complete response, one patient (3%) had a nodular partial response, and 17 (55%) patients had a partial response.
Interpretation
The safety and activity of ibrutinib in elderly, previously untreated patients with symptomatic chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, or small lymphocytic lymphoma is encouraging, and merits further investigation in phase 3 trials.
Funding
Pharmacyclics, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, D Warren Brown Foundation, Mr and Mrs Michael Thomas, Harry Mangurian Foundation, P50 CA140158 to Prof J C Byrd MD.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70513-8
PMCID: PMC4134524  PMID: 24332241
25.  Comparative Assessment of Clinically Utilized CD20-directed Antibodies in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Cells Reveals Divergent NK cell, Monocyte and Macrophage Properties 
CD20 is a widely validated, B cell specific target for therapy in B cell malignancies. Rituximab is an anti-CD20 antibody that when combined with chemotherapy prolongs survival of CLL patients. Ofatumumab and GA101 (obinutuzumab) are CD20-directed antibodies now being developed as alternative agents to rituximab in CLL based upon different properties of enhanced direct cell death (DCD), NK cell-mediated antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), or complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). Despite wide spread study, ofatumumab and GA101 have not been directly compared to one another, nor studied for interaction with monocytes and macrophages that are critical to CD20-mediated antibody efficacy in murine models. In CLL cells, we show that DCD is greatest with GA101 and CDC with ofatumumab. GA101 promotes enhanced NK cell activation and ADCC at high antibody concentrations. Ofatumumab has superior antibody dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) with monocyte derived macrophages (MDM). GA101 demonstrated reduced activation of monocytes with diminished pERK, TNF-α release, and FcγRIIa recruitment to lipid rafts. These data demonstrate GA101 and ofatumumab are superior to rituximab against CLL cells via different mechanisms of potential tumor elimination. These findings bear relevance to potential combination strategies with each of these anti-CD20 antibodies in the treatment of CLL.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1202588
PMCID: PMC3631574  PMID: 23418626

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