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1.  Acute B lymphoblastic leukaemia-propagating cells are present at high frequency in diverse lymphoblast populations 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2012;5(1):38-51.
Leukaemia-propagating cells are more frequent in high-risk acute B lymphoblastic leukaemia than in many malignancies that follow a hierarchical cancer stem cell model. It is unclear whether this characteristic can be more universally applied to patients from non-‘high-risk’ sub-groups and across a broad range of cellular immunophenotypes. Here, we demonstrate in a wide range of primary patient samples and patient samples previously passaged through mice that leukaemia-propagating cells are found in all populations defined by high or low expression of the lymphoid differentiation markers CD10, CD20 or CD34. The frequency of leukaemia-propagating cells and their engraftment kinetics do not differ between these populations. Transcriptomic analysis of CD34high and CD34low blasts establishes their difference and their similarity to comparable normal progenitors at different stages of B-cell development. However, consistent with the functional similarity of these populations, expression signatures characteristic of leukaemia propagating cells in acute myeloid leukaemia fail to distinguish between the different populations. Together, these findings suggest that there is no stem cell hierarchy in acute B lymphoblastic leukaemia.
doi:10.1002/emmm.201201703
PMCID: PMC3569652  PMID: 23229821
acute lymphoblastic leukaemia; cancer stem cells; leukaemia maintenance; leukaemia propagating cells; leukaemia stem cells
2.  Outcomes after Induction Failure in Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(15):1371-1381.
BACKGROUND
Failure of remission-induction therapy is a rare but highly adverse event in children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
METHODS
We identified induction failure, defined by the persistence of leukemic blasts in blood, bone marrow, or any extramedullary site after 4 to 6 weeks of remission-induction therapy, in 1041 of 44,017 patients (2.4%) 0 to 18 years of age with newly diagnosed ALL who were treated by a total of 14 cooperative study groups between 1985 and 2000. We analyzed the relationships among disease characteristics, treatments administered, and outcomes in these patients.
RESULTS
Patients with induction failure frequently presented with high-risk features, including older age, high leukocyte count, leukemia with a T-cell phenotype, the Philadelphia chromosome, and 11q23 rearrangement. With a median follow-up period of 8.3 years (range, 1.5 to 22.1), the 10-year survival rate (±SE) was estimated at only 32±1%. An age of 10 years or older, T-cell leukemia, the presence of an 11q23 rearrangement, and 25% or more blasts in the bone marrow at the end of induction therapy were associated with a particularly poor outcome. High hyperdiploidy (a modal chromosome number >50) and an age of 1 to 5 years were associated with a favorable outcome in patients with precursor B-cell leukemia. Allogeneic stem-cell transplantation from matched, related donors was associated with improved outcomes in T-cell leukemia. Children younger than 6 years of age with precursor B-cell leukemia and no adverse genetic features had a 10-year survival rate of 72±5% when treated with chemotherapy only.
CONCLUSIONS
Pediatric ALL with induction failure is highly heterogeneous. Patients who have T-cell leukemia appear to have a better outcome with allogeneic stem-cell transplantation than with chemotherapy, whereas patients who have precursor B-cell leukemia without other adverse features appear to have a better outcome with chemotherapy. (Funded by Deutsche Krebshilfe and others.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1110169
PMCID: PMC3374496  PMID: 22494120
3.  Clinical Significance of Aberrant DNA Methylation in Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Leukemia Research  2011;35(10):1345-1349.
Methylation profile was analyzed in ninety-five patients with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Methylation of both MGMT and p16 genes were associated with higher age (p=0.01 and p=0.03, respectively). Methylation of both p15 and SHP1 genes occurred more frequently in T-ALL than in precursor B-ALL (p=0.02 and p=0.01, respectively). In contrast, methylation of the DAPK gene was more frequent in precursor B-ALL (p=0.01). Patients with methylation of multiple genes more likely had T cell phenotype, and are classified as medium/high risk (p=0.004 and p=0.03, respectively). These results suggest that methylation status is associated with clinicopathological features in childhood ALL.
doi:10.1016/j.leukres.2011.04.015
PMCID: PMC3258450  PMID: 21592569
methylation; multiple genes; ALL
4.  Variation in CDKN2A at 9p21.3 influences childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia risk 
Nature genetics  2010;42(6):492-494.
Using data from a genome-wide association study of 907 individuals with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (cases) and 2,398 controls and with validation in samples totaling 2,386 cases and 2,419 controls, we have shown that common variation at 9p21.3 (rs3731217, intron 1 of CDKN2A) influences acute lymphoblastic leukemia risk (odds ratio = 0.71, P = 3.01 × 10−11), irrespective of cell lineage.
doi:10.1038/ng.585
PMCID: PMC3434228  PMID: 20453839
5.  Imatinib after induction for treatment of children and adolescents with Philadelphia-chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (EsPhALL): a randomised, open-label, intergroup study 
The Lancet Oncology  2012;13(9):936-945.
Summary
Background
Trials of imatinib have provided evidence of activity in adults with Philadelphia-chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), but the drug's role when given with multidrug chemotherapy to children is unknown. This study assesses the safety and efficacy of oral imatinib in association with a Berlin–Frankfurt–Munster intensive chemotherapy regimen and allogeneic stem-cell transplantation for paediatric patients with Philadelphia-chromosome-positive ALL.
Methods
Patients aged 1–18 years recruited to national trials of front-line treatment for ALL were eligible if they had t(9;22)(q34;q11). Patients with abnormal renal or hepatic function, or an active systemic infection, were ineligible. Patients were enrolled by ten study groups between 2004 and 2009, and were classified as good risk or poor risk according to early response to induction treatment. Good-risk patients were randomly assigned by a web-based system with permuted blocks (size four) to receive post-induction imatinib with chemotherapy or chemotherapy only in a 1:1 ratio, while all poor-risk patients received post-induction imatinib with chemotherapy. Patients were stratified by study group. The chemotherapy regimen was modelled on a Berlin–Frankfurt–Munster high-risk backbone; all received four post-induction blocks of chemotherapy after which they became eligible for stem-cell transplantation. The primary endpoints were disease-free survival at 4 years in the good-risk group and event-free survival at 4 years in the poor-risk group, analysed by intention to treat and a secondary analysis of patients as treated. The trial is registered with EudraCT (2004-001647-30) and ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00287105.
Findings
Between Jan 1, 2004, and Dec 31, 2009, we screened 229 patients and enrolled 178: 108 were good risk and 70 poor risk. 46 good-risk patients were assigned to receive imatinib and 44 to receive no imatinib. Median follow-up was 3·1 years (IQR 2·0–4·6). 4-year disease-free survival was 72·9% (95% CI 56·1–84·1) in the good-risk, imatinib group versus 61·7% (45·0–74·7) in the good-risk, no imatinib group (p=0·24). The hazard ratio (HR) for failure, adjusted for minimal residual disease, was 0·63 (0·28–1·41; p=0·26). The as-treated analysis showed 4-year disease-free survival was 75·2% (61·0–84·9) for good-risk patients receiving imatinib and 55·9% (36·1–71·7) for those who did not receive imatinib (p=0·06). 4-year event-free survival for poor-risk patients was 53·5% (40·4–65·0). Serious adverse events were much the same in the good-risk groups, with infections caused by myelosuppression the most common. 16 patients in the good-risk imatinib group versus ten in the good-risk, no imatinib group (p=0·64), and 24 in the poor-risk group, had a serious adverse event.
Interpretation
Our results suggests that imatinib in conjunction with intensive chemotherapy is well tolerated and might be beneficial for treatment of children with Philadelphia-chromosome-positive ALL.
Funding
Projet Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique-Cancer (France), Fondazione Tettamanti-De Marchi and Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (Italy), Novartis Germany, Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia Lymphoma Research, and Central Manchester University Hospitals Foundation Trust.
doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70377-7
PMCID: PMC3431502  PMID: 22898679
6.  L-asparaginase treatment in acute lymphoblastic leukemia: a focus on Erwinia asparaginase 
Cancer  2010;117(2):238-249.
Asparaginases are a cornerstone of treatment protocols for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and are used for remission induction and intensification treatment in all pediatric regimens and in the majority of adult protocols. Extensive clinical data have shown that intensive asparaginase treatment improves clinical outcomes in childhood ALL. Three asparaginase preparations are available; the native asparaginase derived from Escherichia coli (E. coli-asparaginase), a pegylated form of this enzyme (PEG-asparaginase) and a product isolated from Erwinia chrysanthemi, i.e. Erwinia asparaginase. Clinical hypersensitivity reactions and silent inactivation due to antibodies against E.coli-asparaginase, lead to inactivation of E-Coli asparaginase in up to 60% of cases. Current treatment protocols include E. coli-asparaginase or PEG-asparaginase for first-line treatment of ALL. Typically, patients exhibiting sensitivity to one formulation of asparaginase are switched to another product to ensure they receive the most efficacious treatment regimen possible. Erwinia asparaginase is used as a second- or third-line treatment in European and US protocols. Despite the universal inclusion of asparaginase in such treatment protocols, there is much debate regarding the optimal formulation and dosage of these agents. This manuscript provides an overview of available evidence to make recommendations for optimal use of Erwinia asparaginase in the treatment of ALL.
doi:10.1002/cncr.25489
PMCID: PMC3000881  PMID: 20824725
acute lymphoblastic leukemia; asparagine depletion; asparaginase; Erwinia asparaginase; Erwinase; ALL
8.  Gain-of-function mutations in interleukin-7 receptor-α (IL7R) in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemias 
IL7R-activating mutations identified in B-ALL and T-ALL patient leukemic cells facilitate cytokine-independent growth.
Interleukin-7 receptor α (IL7R) is required for normal lymphoid development. Loss-of-function mutations in this gene cause autosomal recessive severe combined immune deficiency. Here, we describe somatic gain-of-function mutations in IL7R in pediatric B and T acute lymphoblastic leukemias. The mutations cause either a serine-to-cysteine substitution at amino acid 185 in the extracellular domain (4 patients) or in-frame insertions and deletions in the transmembrane domain (35 patients). In B cell precursor leukemias, the mutations were associated with the aberrant expression of cytokine receptor-like factor 2 (CRLF2), and the mutant IL-7R proteins formed a functional receptor with CRLF2 for thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). Biochemical and functional assays reveal that these IL7R mutations are activating mutations conferring cytokine-independent growth of progenitor lymphoid cells. A cysteine, included in all but three of the mutated IL-7R alleles, is essential for the constitutive activation of the receptor. This is the first demonstration of gain-of-function mutations of IL7R. Our current and recent observations of mutations in IL7R and CRLF2, respectively suggest that the addition of cysteine to the juxtamembranous domains is a general mechanism for mutational activation of type I cytokine receptors in leukemia.
doi:10.1084/jem.20110580
PMCID: PMC3092356  PMID: 21536738
9.  Clinical Outcome of Children With Newly Diagnosed Philadelphia Chromosome–Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treated Between 1995 and 2005 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2010;28(31):4755-4761.
Purpose
In a previous analysis of 326 children with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) –positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treated between 1986 and 1996, hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation from HLA-matched related donors, but not from unrelated donors, offered a superior outcome than chemotherapy alone. To evaluate the impact of recent improvements in chemotherapy and transplantation, we performed a similar analysis on patients treated in the following decade.
Patients and Methods
We analyzed 610 patients with Ph-positive ALL treated between 1995 and 2005 without tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy. The median follow-up duration was 6.3 years.
Results
Complete remission was achieved in 89% of patients. The 7-year event-free survival and overall survival rates were superior in the present cohort compared with the previous cohort (32.0% ± 2.0% v 25.0% ± 3.0, respectively, P = .007; and 44.9% ± 2.2% v 36.0% ± 3.0%, respectively, P = .017). Compared with chemotherapy alone, transplantation with matched related donors or unrelated donors in first remission (325 patients) showed an advantage with increasing follow-up, suggesting greater protection against late relapses (hazard ratio at 5 years, 0.37; P < .001). In the multivariate Cox regression analysis accounting for treatment (transplantation v no transplantation), age, leukocyte count, and early response had independent impact on treatment outcome.
Conclusion
Clinical outcome of children and adolescents with Ph-positive ALL has improved with advances in transplantation and chemotherapy. Transplantations with matched related donors and unrelated donors were equivalent and offered better disease control compared with chemotherapy alone. Age, leukocyte count, and early treatment response were independent prognostic indicators. The results of this study will serve as a historical reference to evaluate the therapeutic impact of tyrosine kinase inhibitors on the outcome of Ph-positive ALL.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2010.30.1325
PMCID: PMC3020705  PMID: 20876426
10.  Long term outcome of high-risk neuroblastoma patients after immunotherapy with antibody ch14.18 or oral metronomic chemotherapy 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:21.
Background
The treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma patients consists of multimodal induction therapy to achieve remission followed by consolidation therapy to prevent relapses. However, the type of consolidation therapy is still discussed controversial. We applied metronomic chemotherapy in the prospective NB90 trial and monoclonal anti-GD2-antibody (MAB) ch14.18 in the NB97 trial. Here, we present the long term outcome data of the patient cohort.
Methods
A total of 334 stage 4 neuroblastoma patients one year or older were included. All patients successfully completed the induction therapy. In the NB90 trial, 99 patients received at least one cycle of the oral maintenance chemotherapy (NB90 MT, 12 alternating cycles of oral melphalan/etoposide and vincristine/cyclophosphamide). In the NB97 trial, 166 patients commenced the MAB ch14.18 consolidation therapy (six cycles over 12 months). Patients who received no maintenance therapy according to the NB90 protocol or by refusal in NB97 (n = 69) served as controls.
Results
The median observation time was 11.11 years. The nine-year event-free survival rates were 41 ± 4%, 31 ± 5%, and 32 ± 6% for MAB ch14.18, NB90 MT, and no consolidation, respectively (p = 0.098). In contrast to earlier reports, MAB ch14.18 treatment improved the long-term outcome compared to no additional therapy (p = 0.038). The overall survival was better in the MAB ch14.18-treated group (9-y-OS 46 ± 4%) compared to NB90 MT (34 ± 5%, p = 0.026) and to no consolidation (35 ± 6%, p = 0.019). Multivariable Cox regression analysis revealed ch14.18 consolidation to improve outcome compared to no consolidation, however, no difference between NB90 MT and MAB ch14.18-treated patients was found.
Conclusions
Follow-up analysis of the patient cohort indicated that immunotherapy with MAB ch14.18 may prevent late relapses. Finally, metronomic oral maintenance chemotherapy also appeared effective.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-21
PMCID: PMC3031264  PMID: 21244693
11.  Induction of autophagy-dependent necroptosis is required for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells to overcome glucocorticoid resistance 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(4):1310-1323.
In vivo resistance to first-line chemotherapy, including to glucocorticoids, is a strong predictor of poor outcome in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Modulation of cell death regulators represents an attractive strategy for subverting such drug resistance. Here we report complete resensitization of multidrug-resistant childhood ALL cells to glucocorticoids and other cytotoxic agents with subcytotoxic concentrations of obatoclax, a putative antagonist of BCL-2 family members. The reversal of glucocorticoid resistance occurred through rapid activation of autophagy-dependent necroptosis, which bypassed the block in mitochondrial apoptosis. This effect was associated with dissociation of the autophagy inducer beclin-1 from the antiapoptotic BCL-2 family member myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (MCL-1) and with a marked decrease in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activity. Consistent with a protective role for mTOR in glucocorticoid resistance in childhood ALL, combination of rapamycin with the glucocorticoid dexamethasone triggered autophagy-dependent cell death, with characteristic features of necroptosis. Execution of cell death, but not induction of autophagy, was strictly dependent on expression of receptor-interacting protein (RIP-1) kinase and cylindromatosis (turban tumor syndrome) (CYLD), two key regulators of necroptosis. Accordingly, both inhibition of RIP-1 and interference with CYLD restored glucocorticoid resistance completely. Together with evidence for a chemosensitizing activity of obatoclax in vivo, our data provide a compelling rationale for clinical translation of this pharmacological approach into treatments for patients with refractory ALL.
doi:10.1172/JCI39987
PMCID: PMC2846044  PMID: 20200450
12.  In Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Blasts At Different Stages Of Immunophenotypic Maturation Have Stem Cell Properties 
Cancer cell  2008;14(1):47-58.
Summary
We examined the leukemic stem cell potential of blasts at different stages of maturation in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Human leukemic bone marrow was transplanted intrafemorally into NOD/scid mice. Cells sorted using the B precursor differentiation markers CD19, CD20 and CD34 were isolated from patient samples and engrafted mice before serial transplantation into primary or subsequent (up to quaternary) recipients. Surprisingly, blasts representative of all the different maturational stages were able to reconstitute and re-establish the complete leukemic phenotype in vivo. Sorted blast populations mirrored normal B precursor cells with transcription of a number of stage-appropriate genes. These observations have informed a model for leukemia-propagating stem cells in childhood ALL.
doi:10.1016/j.ccr.2008.05.015
PMCID: PMC2572185  PMID: 18598943
13.  Polymorphisms of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) and susceptibility to pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia in a German study population 
BMC Medical Genetics  2005;6:23.
Background
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) has a major impact on the regulation of the folic acid pathway due to conversion of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate (methylene-THF) to 5-methyl-THF. Two common polymorphisms (677C>T and 1298A>C) in the gene coding for MTHFR have been shown to reduce MTHFR enzyme activity and were associated with the susceptibility to different disorders, including vascular disease, neural tube defects and lymphoid malignancies. Studies on the role of these polymorphisms in the susceptibility to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) led to discrepant results.
Methods
We retrospectively evaluated the association of the MTHFR 677C>T and 1298A>C polymorphisms with pediatric ALL by genotyping a study sample of 443 ALL patients consecutively enrolled onto the German multicenter trial ALL-BFM 2000 and 379 healthy controls. We calculated odds ratios of MTHFR genotypes based on the MTHFR 677C>T and 1298A>C polymorphisms to examine if one or both of these polymorphisms are associated with pediatric ALL.
Results
No significant associations between specific MTHFR variants or combinations of variants and risk of ALL were observed neither in the total patient group nor in analyses stratified by gender, age at diagnosis, DNA index, immunophenotype, or TEL/AML1 rearrangement.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that the MTHFR 677C>T and 1298A>C gene variants do not have a major influence on the susceptibility to pediatric ALL in the German population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-6-23
PMCID: PMC1164414  PMID: 15921520
14.  Tumor necrosis factor and lymphotoxin-alpha genetic polymorphisms and risk of relapse in childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia: a case-control study of patients treated with BFM therapy 
Background
Circulating levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and lymphotoxin-α (LT-α) have been associated with outcome in solid and hematologic malignancies. Within the TNF gene and the LT-α gene, polymorphisms have been identified at nucleotide positions -308 and +252, respectively. The variant alleles for TNF are designated TNF1 and TNF2, the ones for LT-α LT-α (10.5 kb) and LT-α (5.5 kb). Of interest, TNF2 and LT-α (5.5 kb) were shown to be associated with higher TNF and LT-α plasma levels than their counterparts. In the present study, we investigated the associations of the above mentioned polymorphisms with risk of relapse in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treated according to Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster (BFM) protocols.
Methods
Matched case-control study of 64 relapsed and 64 successfully treated non-relapsed childhood B-cell precursor ALL patients of standard and intermediate risk for treatment failure.
Results
The odds ratio (OR) for the combined category of TNF1/TNF2 and TNF2/TNF2 genotypes in comparison to the TNF1/TNF1 genotype was 1.17 (95 % confidence interval (CI) = 0.53 - 2.56, P = 0.697). The ORs for the LT-α (10.5 kb/5.5 kb) and the LT-α (5.5 kb/5.5 kb) genotypes with reference to the LT-α (10.5 kb/10.5 kb) genotype were 2.17 (95 % CI = 0.84 - 5.58, P = 0.107) and 0.5 (95 % CI = 0.09 - 2.66, P = 0.418), respectively.
Conclusions
Our results do not suggest a major role of the investigated genetic polymorphisms with regard to risk of relapse in standard- and intermediate-risk childhood B-cell precursor ALL treated according to BFM protocols.
doi:10.1186/1471-2326-1-2
PMCID: PMC32163  PMID: 11319038

Results 1-14 (14)