Despite being highly effective for newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), imatinib not only is inactive against quiescent CML stem cells, but also has limited activity against blast crisis (BC) CML. The relative activity of Bcr-Abl and the expression levels of antiapoptotic proteins in proliferating and quiescent CD34+ BC CML progenitor cells and the effects of targeting antiapoptotic proteins in these cells are unknown. Here we report higher levels of p-CrkL in quiescent than in proliferating CD34+ progenitor cells and comparable expression levels of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Mcl-1, and XIAP in the two populations in BC CML. Inhibition of Bcl-2/Bcl-xL by ABT-737 in cells from patients with tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-resistant BC CML promoted apoptosis in quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells with an efficacy similar to that in proliferating cells. Combination of ABT-737 with imatinib (which decreases Mcl-1 levels) or triptolide (which decreases Mcl-1 and XIAP) synergistically induced death of both proliferating and quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells obtained from TKI-resistant BC CML patients. These results suggest that antiapoptotic proteins are critical targets in BC CML and that activation of apoptosis signaling can eliminate both proliferating and quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells in BC CML, independent of response to TKIs.
apoptosis; Bcl-2/Bcl-xL; Mcl-1; XIAP; quiescent; CML; progenitors
Outcome in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) worsens with age, at least in part because of higher treatment-related mortality (TRM) in older patients. Eligibility for intensive AML treatment protocols is therefore typically based on age as the implied principal predictor of TRM, although other health- and disease-related factors modulate this age effect.
Patients and Methods
We empirically defined TRM using estimated weekly hazard rates in 3,365 adults of all ages administered intensive chemotherapy for newly diagnosed AML. We used the area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) to quantify the relative effects of age and other covariates on TRM in a subset of 2,238 patients. In this approach, an AUC of 1.0 denotes perfect prediction, whereas an AUC of 0.5 is analogous to a coin flip.
Regardless of age, risk of death declined once 4 weeks had elapsed from treatment start, suggesting that patients who die during this time comprise a qualitatively distinct group. Performance status (PS) and age were the most important individual predictors of TRM (AUCs of 0.75 and 0.65, respectively). However, multicomponent models were significantly more accurate in predicting TRM (AUC of 0.83) than PS or age alone. Elimination of age from such multicomponent models only minimally affected their predictive accuracy (AUC of 0.82).
These data suggest that age is primarily a surrogate for other covariates, which themselves add significantly to predictive accuracy, thus challenging the wisdom of using age as primary or sole basis for assignment of intensive, curative intent treatment in AML.
The response definitions proposed by the European LeukemiaNet (ELN) are defined on the basis of imatinib front-line therapy. It is unknown whether these definitions apply to patients treated with second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Patients and Methods
One hundred sixty-seven patients with newly diagnosed chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in chronic phase were treated with second-generation TKIs in phase II trials (nilotinib, 81; dasatinib, 86). Median follow-up was 33 months. Event-free survival (EFS) was measured from the start of treatment to the date of loss of complete hematologic response, loss of complete or major cytogenetic response, discontinuation of therapy for toxicity or lack of efficacy, progression to accelerated or blastic phases, or death at any time.
Overall, 155 patients (93%) achieved complete cytogenetic response (CCyR), including 146 (87%) with major molecular response (MMR; complete in 46 patients [28%]). According to the ELN definitions, the rates of suboptimal response were 0%, 2%, 1%, and 12% at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months of therapy, respectively. There was no difference in EFS and CCyR duration between patients who achieved CCyR with and without MMR across all the landmark times of 3, 6, 12, and 18 months.
The use of second-generation TKIs as initial therapy in CML induces high rates of CCyR at early time points. The ELN definitions of response proposed for imatinib therapy are not applicable in this setting. We propose that achievement of CCyR and partial cytogenetic response at 3 months should be considered optimal and suboptimal responses, respectively. The achievement of MMR offered no advantage over CCyR in defining long-term outcome in patients with newly diagnosed CML treated with second-generation TKIs.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a clonal stem cell malignancy whose pathogenesis is driven by constitutive activation of the breakpoint cluster region–v-abl Abelson murine leukemia viral oncogene homolog 1 (BCR-ABL1) kinase. Although BCR-ABL1 activation is present in all patients with CML, patients can present in 3 different phases characterized by an increasingly worse prognosis and diminished responsiveness to tyrosine kinase inhibitors: chronic phase, accelerated phase, or blastic phase. The biologic basis for progression from chronic phase to blastic phase and for regulating the homeostasis of tyrosine kinase inhibitor-resistant CML stem cells is not entirely understood.
To shed some light into these aspects of CML biology, the authors used reverse phase protein arrays probed with 112 individual monoclonal antibodies to compare protein expression patterns in 40 samples of leukemia-enriched fractions from patients with CML (25 in chronic phase, 5 in accelerated phase, and 10 in phase).
An analysis of variance (significance cutoff, P < .01) unveiled a set of proteins that were overexpressed in blastic phase, including heat-shock protein 90 (hsp90); retinoblastoma (Rb); apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF); serine/threonine-protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A); B-cell leukemia 2 (Bcl-2); X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (Xiap); human homolog of Drosophila Mad (mothers against decapenta-plegic) and related Caenorhabditis elegans gene Sma, family member 1 (Smad1); single-stranded DNA binding protein 2 alpha (SSBP2α); poly(adenosine diphosphate-ribose) polymerase (PARP); GRB2-associated binding protein 2 (Gab2); and tripartite motif containing 24 (Trim24). It is noteworthy that several of these proteins also were overexpressed in the CD34-positive compartment, which putatively contains the CML stem cell population.
The results from this study indicated that reverse phase protein array analysis can unveil differentially expressed proteins in advanced phase CML that can be exploited therapeutically with targeted approaches.
chronic myeloid leukemia; protein expression; reverse phase protein array; signature; blastic phase; chronic phase; proteomics
The clinical outcome for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) has changed dramatically in the past 15 years. This has been due to the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), compounds which inhibit the activity of the oncogenic BCR-ABL1 protein. Imatinib was the first TKI developed for CML, and it led to high rates of complete cytogenetic responses and improved survival for patients with this disease. However, about 35% of patients in chronic phase treated with imatinib will develop resistance or intolerance to this drug. The recognition of the problem of imatinib failure led to the design of 2nd-generation TKI (dasatinib, nilotinib and bosutinib). These drugs are highly active in the scenario of imatinib resistance or intolerance. More recently, both nilotinib and dasatinib were approved for frontline use in patients with chronic phase CML. Ponatinib represents the last generation of TKI, and this drug has been developed with the aim of targeting a specific BCR-ABL1 mutation (T315I) which arises in the setting of prolonged TKI therapy and leads to resistance to all commercially available TKI. Parallel to the development of specific drugs for treating CML, major advances were made in the field of disease monitoring and standardization of response criteria. In this review we summarize how therapy with TKI for CML has evolved over the last decade.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia; BCR-ABL1; Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors; Imatinib; Dasatinib; Nilotinib; Bosutinib; Ponatinib
Complete cytogenetic response (CCyR) is the gold standard for response to therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) because it is associated with a survival benefit. However, patients who have failed initial therapy with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) frequently achieve only partial or minor cytogenetic responses. The clinical benefit of such responses is unclear.
Patients and Methods
We analyzed the records of all 165 consecutive patients treated in clinical trials with TKI as second line therapy or beyond after failure to prior imatinib therapy.
A CCyR was achieved with second-line TKI therapy or beyond in 52% of patients, while 7% achieved a partial cytogenetic response (PCyR), 14% a minor cytogenetic response (mCyR), 14% complete hematologic response (CHR) only, and 17% no response. The 3-year survival probability was 98% for those with CCyR, compared to 83% with PCyR, 83% for mCyR, 76% for CHR and 71% for no response. Survival free from transformation rates at 3 years were 93%, 73%, 84%, 88%, and 0%, respectively.
CCyR is associated with the greatest survival benefit among patients treated with 2nd line therapy or beyond and remains the optimal cytogenetic goal of therapy. However, patients with partial and minor cytogenetic response derive a benefit compared to patients who have no response. This benefit should be recognized and evaluated against any alternative option available to a given patient before a change in therapy is recommended.
Although signaling through the type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) maintains the survival of hematopoietic cells, a specific role of IGF-IR in hematological neoplasms remains largely unknown. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is the most common subtype of chronic myeloproliferative diseases. Typically, CML evolves as a chronic phase (CP) disease that progresses into accelerated (AP) and blast phase (BP) stages. In this study we show that IGF-IR is universally expressed in 4 CML cell lines. IGF-IR was expressed in only 30% and 25% of CP and AP patients; respectively, but its frequency of expression increased to 73% of BP patients. Increased expression levels of IGF-IR with CML progression was supported by quantitative real time PCR that demonstrated significantly higher levels of IGF-IR mRNA in BP patients. Inhibition of IGF-IR decreased the viability and proliferation of CML cell lines and abrogated their growth in soft agar. Importantly, inhibition of IGF-IR decreased the viability of cells resistant to imatinib mesylate including BaF3 cells transfected with p210 BCR-ABL mutants, CML cell lines, and primary neoplastic cells from patients. The negative effects of inhibition of IGF-IR were attributable to apoptosis and cell cycle arrest due to alterations of downstream target proteins. Our findings suggest that IGF-IR could represent a potential molecular target particularly for advanced stage or imatinib-resistant cases.
IGF-IR; chronic myeloid leukemia; BCR-ABL; picropodophyllin; imatinib mesylate
Treatment of CML with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) imatinib mesylate results in the emergence of point mutations within the kinase domain (KD) of the BCR-ABL1 fusion transcript. The introduction of next-generation TKIs that can overcome the effects of some BCR-ABL1 KD mutations requires quantitative mutation profiling methods to assess responses. We report the design and validation of such quantitative assays, using pyrosequencing and mutation-specific RT-PCR techniques, to allow sequential monitoring and illustrate their use in tracking specific KD mutations (e.g. G250E, T315I, and M351T) following changes in therapy. Pyrosequencing and mutation-specific RT-PCR allows sequential monitoring of specific mutations and identification of rapid clonal shifts in response to kinase inhibitor therapy in CML. Rapid reselection of TKI-resistant clones occurs following therapy switch in CML.
Cells are regulated by networks of controllers having many targets, and targets affected by many controllers, in a “many-to-many” control structure. Here we study several of these bipartite (two-layer) networks. We analyze both naturally occurring biological networks (composed of transcription factors controlling genes, microRNAs controlling mRNA transcripts, and protein kinases controlling protein substrates) and a drug-target network composed of kinase inhibitors and of their kinase targets. Certain statistical properties of these biological bipartite structures seem universal across systems and species, suggesting the existence of common control strategies in biology. The number of controllers is ∼8% of targets and the density of links is 2.5%±1.2%. Links per node are predominantly exponentially distributed. We explain the conservation of the mean number of incoming links per target using a mathematical model of control networks, which also indicates that the “many-to-many” structure of biological control has properties of efficient robustness. The drug-target network has many statistical properties similar to the biological networks and we show that drug-target networks with biomimetic features can be obtained. These findings suggest a completely new approach to pharmacological control of biological systems. Molecular tools, such as kinase inhibitors, are now available to test if therapeutic combinations may benefit from being designed with biomimetic properties, such as “many-to-many” targeting, very wide coverage of the target set, and redundancy of incoming links per target.
CML is a clonal multistep myeloproliferative disease originating from and ultimately sustained by a rare population of BCR-ABL+ cells with multilineage stem cell properties. Imatinib, the most successful of molecular targeted therapies, has revolutionized treatment of patients with CML. Despite this achievement, CML is often not curable, largely due to the innate insensitivity of CML stem cells, particularly when in a quiescent state. This failure of not only imatinib but also the second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors frequently leads to relapse upon drug discontinuation. Thus, any curative therapy must eliminate CML stem cells. A comprehensive understanding of the biological properties of CML stem cells and an elucidation of the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways enabling these CML stem cells to self-renew, combined with insight into the regulation of apoptosis signaling and the mechanisms governing the interaction of CML stem cells with their bone marrow microenvironment, will facilitate the development of therapies for targeting these cells. In this seminar, we will discuss the biological properties of CML stem cells and potential strategies to eliminate them.
The adverse prognosis of CD20 expression in adults with de novo precursor B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) prompted incorporation of monoclonal antibody therapy with rituximab into the intensive chemotherapy regimen hyper-CVAD (fractionated cyclophosphamide, vincristine, doxorubicin, dexamethasone). Other modifications (irrespective of CD20 expression) included early anthracycline intensification, alterations in number of risk-adapted intrathecal chemotherapy treatments for CNS prophylaxis, additional early and late intensifications, and extension of maintenance phase chemotherapy by 6 months.
Patients and Methods
Two hundred eighty-two adolescents and adults with de novo Philadelphia chromosome (Ph)–negative precursor B-lineage ALL were treated with standard or modified hyper-CVAD regimens. The latter incorporated standard-dose rituximab if CD20 expression ≥ 20%.
The complete remission (CR) rate was 95% with 3-year rates of CR duration (CRD) and survival (OS) of 60% and 50%, respectively. In the younger (age < 60 years) CD20-positive subset, rates of CRD and OS were superior with the modified hyper-CVAD and rituximab regimens compared with standard hyper-CVAD (70% v 38%; P < .001% and 75% v 47%, P = .003). In contrast, rates of CRD and OS for CD20-negative counterparts treated with modified versus standard hyper-CVAD regimens were similar (72% v 68%, P = not significant [NS] and 64% v 65%, P = NS, respectively). Older patients with CD20-positive ALL did not benefit from rituximab-based chemoimmunotherapy (rates of CRD 45% v 50%, P = NS and OS 28% v 32%, P = NS, respectively), related in part to deaths in CR.
The incorporation of rituximab into the hyper-CVAD regimen appears to improve outcome for younger patients with CD20-positive Ph-negative precursor B-lineage ALL.
The epigenetic impact of DNA methylation in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is not completely understood. To elucidate its role we analyzed 120 patients with CML for methylation of promoter-associated CpG islands of 10 genes. Five genes were identified by DNA methylation screening in the K562 cell line and 3 genes in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. The CDKN2B gene was selected for its frequent methylation in myeloid malignancies and ABL1 as the target of BCR-ABL translocation. Thirty patients were imatinib-naïve (mostly treated by interferon-alpha before the imatinib era), 30 were imatinib-responsive, 50 were imatinib-resistant, and 10 were imatinib-intolerant. We quantified DNA methylation by bisulfite pyrosequencing. The average number of methylated genes was 4.5 per patient in the chronic phase, increasing significantly to 6.2 in the accelerated and 6.4 in the blastic phase. Higher numbers of methylated genes were also observed in patients resistant or intolerant to imatinib. These patients also showed almost exclusive methylation of a putative transporter OSCP1. Abnormal methylation of a Src suppressor gene PDLIM4 was associated with shortened survival independently of CML stage and imatinib responsiveness. We conclude that aberrant DNA methylation is associated with CML progression and that DNA methylation could be a marker associated with imatinib resistance. Finally, DNA methylation of PDLIM4 may help identify a subset of CML patients that would benefit from treatment with Src/Abl inhibitors.
Nilotinib is a highly selective Bcr-Abl inhibitor approved for imatinib-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Nilotinib and dasatinib, a multi-targeted kinase inhibitor also approved for second line therapy in CML, have different patterns of kinase selectivity, pharmacokinetics, and cell uptake and efflux properties, and thus patients may respond to one following failure of the other. An international Phase II study of nilotinib was conducted in CML patients [39 chronic phase (CP), 21 accelerated phase (AP)] after failure of both imatinib and dasatinib. Median times from diagnosis of CP or AP to nilotinib therapy were 89 and 83 months, respectively. Complete hematologic response and major cytogenetic response (MCyR) rates in CP were 79% and 43% respectively. Of 17 evaluable patients with CML-AP, 5 (29%) had a confirmed hematologic response and 2 (12%) a MCyR. The median time to progression has not yet been reached in CP patients. At 18 months 59% of patients are progression-free. Median overall survival for both populations has not been reached and the estimated 18 month survival rate in CML-CP was 86% and 80% at 12 months for CML-AP. Nilotinib is effective therapy in CML-CP and -AP following failure of both imatinib and dasatinib therapy.
Imatinib; dasatinib; nilotinib; resistance; abl inhibitors
To determine the efficacy and toxicity of the combination of sorafenib, cytarabine, and idarubicin in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) younger than age 65 years.
Patients and Methods
In the phase I part of the study, 10 patients with relapsed AML were treated with escalating doses of sorafenib with chemotherapy to establish the feasibility of the combination. We then treated 51 patients (median age, 53 years; range, 18 to 65 years) who had previously untreated AML with cytarabine at 1.5 g/m2 by continuous intravenous (IV) infusion daily for 4 days (3 days if > 60 years of age), idarubicin at 12 mg/m2 IV daily for 3 days, and sorafenib at 400 mg orally twice daily for 7 days.
Overall, 38 (75%) patients have achieved a complete remission (CR), including 14 (93%) of 15 patients with mutated FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3; the 15th patient had complete remission with incomplete platelet recovery [CRp]) and 24 (66%) of 36 patients with FLT3 wild-type (WT) disease (three additional FLT3-WT patients had CRp). FLT3-mutated patients were more likely to achieve a CR than FLT3-WT patients (P = .033). With a median follow-up of 54 weeks (range, 8 to 87 weeks), the probability of survival at 1 year is 74%. Among the FLT3-mutated patients, 10 have relapsed and five remain in CR with a median follow-up of 62 weeks (range, 10 to 76 weeks). Plasma inhibitory assay demonstrated an on-target effect on FLT3 kinase activity.
Sorafenib can be safely combined with chemotherapy, produces a high CR rate in FLT3-mutated patients, and inhibits FLT3 signaling.
The poor prognosis of patients with prolymphocytic leukemia (PLL) has led some clinicians to recommend allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT). However, the data to support this approach is limited to case-reports and small case-series. We reviewed the database of the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research to determine outcomes after allotransplant for patients with PLL. We identified 47 patients with a median age of 54 years (range, 30–75). With a median follow-up of 13 months, progression-free survival was 33% (95% Confidence Interval 20–47%) at 2 years. The most common cause of death was relapse or progression in 49%. The cumulative incidence of treatment-related mortality at 1-year post transplant was 28%. The small patient population prohibited prognostic factor analysis but these data support consideration of allotransplant for PLL. Further study of a larger population of patients is needed to determine which patients are more likely to benefit.
Prolymphocytic Leukemia; allogeneic stem cell transplantation
Although most patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in chronic phase respond well to front-line therapy with imatinib, some patients do not achieve the desirable end point, and others may eventually lose response or are intolerant.
Patients and Methods
Patients with newly diagnosed CML in chronic phase were treated with nilotinib 400 mg twice daily on an empty stomach as initial therapy.
Among 51 patients in chronic phase observed for at least 3 months, 50 (98%) achieved a complete cytogenetic remission (CCyR), and 39 (76%) achieved a major molecular response (MMR). Responses occurred rapidly, with 96% of patients achieving CCyR by 3 months and 98% achieving CCyR by 6 months. The projected event-free survival at 24 months is 90%, and all patients are alive after a median follow-up time of 17 months. Grade ≥ 3 neutropenia occurred in 12% of patients, and thrombocytopenia in occurred 11%. Nonhematologic toxicity was usually grade 1 to 2 and manageable. The actual median dose at 12 months was 800 mg (range, 200 to 800 mg).
Nilotinib is an effective option for the initial management of CML in early chronic phase, producing high rates of CCyR and MMR, with most patients reaching these responses early during their therapy.
Dasatinib is effective therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) after imatinib failure. In this study, we investigate the efficacy of dasatinib as initial therapy for patients with CML in early chronic phase.
Patients and Methods
Patients with newly diagnosed CML in early chronic phase were randomly assigned to receive dasatinib 100 mg once daily or 50 mg twice daily as initial therapy.
Among 50 patients observed for at least 3 months, 49 patients (98%) achieved a complete cytogenetic response (CCyR), and 41 patients (82%) achieved a major molecular response (MMR). Responses occurred rapidly, with 94% of patients achieving CCyR by 6 months. There was no difference in response rate by treatment arm. The projected event-free survival rate at 24 months is 88%, and all patients are alive after a median follow-up time of 24 months. Grade ≥ 3 neutropenia and thrombocytopenia occurred in 21% and 10% of patients, respectively. Nonhematologic toxicity was usually grade 1 to 2. There was no significant difference in toxicity between the two arms, and the actual median dose at 12 months was 100 mg (range, 20 to 100 mg).
Dasatinib is an effective agent for the initial management of CML in early chronic phase, producing high rates of CCyR and MMR.
Sapacitabine is an oral deoxycytidine nucleoside analog with a unique mechanism of action that is different from cytarabine.
Patients and Methods
To define the dose-limiting toxicities (DLT) and maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) of sapacitabine given orally twice daily for 7 days every 3 to 4 weeks, or twice daily for 3 days for 2 weeks (days 1 through 3 and days 8 through 10) every 3 to 4 weeks, in refractory-relapse acute leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). A total of 47 patients were treated in the phase I study that used a classical 3 + 3 design. Sapacitabine was escalated from 75 to 375 mg twice daily for 7 days (n = 35) and from 375 to 475 mg twice daily for 3 days on days 1 through 3 and days 8 through 10.
The DLTs with both schedules were gastrointestinal. The MTDs were 375 mg twice daily for 7 days and 425 mg twice daily for 3 days on days 1 through 3 and days 8 through 10. The recommended phase II single-agent dose schedules were 325 mg twice daily for 7 days and 425 mg twice daily for 3 days on days 1 through 3 and days 8 through 10. Responses were observed in 13 patients (28%); four were complete responses, and nine were marrow complete responses.
Sapacitabine is a new, safely administered, oral deoxycytidine analog that has encouraging activity in leukemia and MDS. Phase II studies are ongoing.
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors have changed the management and outcomes of chronic myeloid leukemia patients. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction is used to monitor molecular responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Molecular monitoring represents the most sensitive tool to judge chronic myeloid leukemia disease course and allows early detection of relapse. Evidence of achieving molecular response is important for several reasons: 1. early molecular response is associated with major molecular response rates at 18-24 months; 2. patients achieving major molecular response are less likely to lose their complete cytogenetic response; 3. a durable, stable major molecular response is associated with increased progression-free survival. However, standardization of molecular techniques is still challenging.
Leukemia, myelogenous, chronic, BCR-ABL positive; Cytogenetic; Monitoring; Mutation; Polymerase chain reaction
Outcome of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) with chromosome 5 and 7 abnormalities [excluding del 5(q)] has been poor with fewer than 10% of patients alive at 2 years.
We investigated whether treatment with hypomethylating agents (5-azacytidine/decitabine) leads to an improved outcome. Between January 2004 and December 2007, 81 patients [37 (46%) with AML (≥ 20% blast); 44 (54%) with high-risk MDS] with chromosome 5 and 7 abnormalities were treated with hypomethylating agents as their initial therapy. These included 68 patients with complex (≥ 3) abnormalities and 13 with less than 3 aberrations. During the same period, 151 patients (126 with AML, 25 with MDS) with chromosome 5 and 7 abnormalities (128 complex, 23 non-complex) were treated with intensive chemotherapy (including cytarabine based regimens in 72% and other in 28%).
Median ages for the two groups were 66 and 61 years, respectively [(ranges (37–85) and (19–89)]. Thirty three (41%) patients in the hypomethylating group achieved CR versus 53 (35%) in the chemotherapy group (p=0.395). With a median follow up of 51 weeks (range 12 – 101) and 40 weeks (range, 5–128), 22/33 patients in the hypomethylating group and 33/53 patients in the chemotherapy group have relapsed. The median CR duration was 45 weeks and 23 weeks, respectively (p=0.153). The overall survival was superior for the hypomethylating group compared to the chemotherapy group (p=0.019).
Treatment with hypomethylating agents may be superior to chemotherapy in patients with chromosome 5 and 7 abnormalities.
Acute myeloid leukemia; high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome; decitabine; 5-azacytidine; chemotherapy
Imatinib therapy, which targets the oncogene product BCR-ABL, has transformed chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) from a life-threatening disease into a chronic condition. Most patients, however, harbor residual leukemia cells, and disease recurrence usually occurs when imatinib is discontinued. Although various mechanisms to explain leukemia cell persistence have been proposed, the critical question from a therapeutic standpoint — whether disease persistence is BCR-ABL dependent or independent — has not been answered. Here, we report that human CML stem cells do not depend on BCR-ABL activity for survival and are thus not eliminated by imatinib therapy. Imatinib inhibited BCR-ABL activity to the same degree in all stem (CD34+CD38–, CD133+) and progenitor (CD34+CD38+) cells and in quiescent and cycling progenitors from newly diagnosed CML patients. Although short-term in vitro imatinib treatment reduced the expansion of CML stem/progenitors, cytokine support permitted growth and survival in the absence of BCR-ABL activity that was comparable to that of normal stem/progenitor counterparts. Our findings suggest that primitive CML cells are not oncogene addicted and that therapies that biochemically target BCR-ABL will not eliminate CML stem cells.
Decitabine, a hypomethylating agent, is active and has been approved for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Intensive chemotherapy is an accepted form of therapy for patients with higher risk MDS. The comparative efficacy of these 2 forms of treatment in MDS is unknown. The objective of the current study was to compare the efficacy and toxicity profiles of decitabine and intensive chemotherapy in MDS.
The authors compared lower intensity decitabine therapy (n = 115 patients) with intensive chemotherapy (as it is used in acute myeloid leukemia [AML]) in patients with higher risk MDS. Two comparisons were made with a cohort of 376 historic patients (from 1995 to 2005): The first comparison included a subcohort of 115 patients (Group A) who matched the 115 decitabine study patients according to age, International Prognostic Scoring System, and cytogenetics; and the second comparison included the whole cohort of 376 patients without matching (Group B). A multivariate analysis was performed for outcome.
The complete remission (CR) rate according to AML criteria was 43% with decitabine, 46% with intensive chemotherapy in Group A, and 52% with intensive chemotherapy in Group B. Compared with Group A, mortality at 6 weeks was 3% with decitabine versus 13% with intensive chemotherapy (P = .006) and, at 3 months, 7% with decitabine versus 23% with intensive chemotherapy (P = .001). Survival was better with decitabine versus intensive chemotherapy in Group A (median survival: 22 months vs 12 months; P < .001). A multivariate analysis of survival in all 491 patients who received decitabine or intensive chemotherapy (Group B) selected decitabine as an independent, favorable prognostic factor for survival (P = .006; hazard ratio, 0.74) after accounting for the independent prognostic effect of pretreatment factors.
In this analysis, decitabine was associated with a survival advantage compared with intensive chemotherapy in patients with higher risk MDS. Future studies should evaluate prospectively the results of decitabine versus intensive chemotherapy in this setting.
The advent of Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) has revolutionized the treatment of CML. However, resistance evolves due to BCR-ABL mutations and other mechanisms. Furthermore, patients with blast crisis (BC) CML are less responsive and quiescent CML stem cells are insensitive to these inhibitors. We found that triptolide, a diterpenoid, at nM concentrations, promoted equally significant death of KBM5 cells, a cell line derived from a Bcr-Abl-bearing BC CML patient and KBM5STI571 cells, an imatinib-resistant KBM5 subline bearing the T315I mutation. Similarly, Ba/F3 cells harboring mutated BCR-ABL were as sensitive as Ba/F3Bcr-Ablp210wt cells to triptolide. Importantly, triptolide induced apoptosis in primary samples from BC CML patients, who showed resistance to Bcr-Abl TKIs in vivo, with less toxicity to normal cells. Triptolide decreased XIAP, Mcl-1, and Bcr-Abl protein levels in K562, KBM5, KBM5STI571 cells and in cells from BC CML patients. It sensitized KBM5, but not KBM5STI571 cells to imatinib. More importantly, triptolide also induced death of quiescent CD34+ CML progenitor cells, a major problem in the therapy of CML with TKIs. Collectively, these results suggest that triptolide potently induces BC CML cell death independent of the cellular responses to Bcr-Abl TKIs, suggesting that triptolide could eradicate residual quiescent CML progenitor cells in TKI-treated patients and benefit TKI-resistant BC CML patients.
triptolide; XIAP; Mcl-1; Bcr-Abl; quiescent CD34+ CML cells
MicroRNAs and heterogeneous ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) are posttranscriptional gene regulators that bind mRNA in a sequence-specific manner. Here, we report that loss of miR-328 occurs in blast crisis chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML-BC) in a BCR/ABL dose- and kinase-dependent manner through the MAPK-hnRNP E2 pathway. Restoration of miR-328 expression rescues differentiation and impairs survival of leukemic blasts by simultaneously interacting with the translational regulator poly(rC)-binding protein hnRNP E2 and with the mRNA encoding the survival factor PIM1, respectively. The interaction with hnRNP E2 is independent of the microRNA’s seed sequence and it leads to release of CEBPA mRNA from hnRNP E2-mediated translational inhibition. Altogether, these data reveal the dual ability of a microRNA to control cell fate both through base pairing with mRNA targets and through a decoy activity that interferes with the function of regulatory proteins.