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1.  Subcutaneous Omacetaxine Mepesuccinate in Patients With Chronic-Phase Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Previously Treated With 2 or More Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors Including Imatinib 
Omacetaxine mepesuccinate (omacetaxine) is a first-in-class cephalotaxine that has demonstrated efficacy in CML. In this analysis we evaluated omacetaxine in CML patients with resistance or intolerance to 2 or more tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Patients and Methods
Data were pooled from 2 phase II trials of subcutaneous omacetaxine, administered at 1.25 mg/m2 twice daily for 14 consecutive days every 28 days until response, then for 7 days every 28 days as maintenance. Patients with resistance or intolerance to imatinib and at least 1 other approved TKI (dasatinib and/or nilotinib) were included; results for patients in chronic phase (CP) are reported here. Major cytogenetic response (MCyR) was the primary end point.
Eighty-one patients with CML-CP (median age, 59 years; range, 26–83 years) were included in the analysis. All patients previously received imatinib, 69 (85%) previously received dasatinib, and 48 (59%) previously received nilotinib. Median omacetaxine exposure was 7.5 months (range, 0.03–38.6 months), with 13 patients ongoing. MCyR was reported in 16 patients (20%; one-sided 95% lower confidence limit, 12.8%), including 8 complete responses; median duration was 17.7 months (95% confidence interval, 4.1 months – not reached). Fifty-six patients (69%) achieved and/or maintained hematologic response for at least 8 weeks; median duration was 12.2 months (range, 8.4–26.2 months). Median failure-free and overall survival were 9.6 months and 34 months, respectively. Toxicity was mainly hematologic: the most common grade 3/4 adverse events were thrombocytopenia (67%), neutropenia (47%), and anemia (37%).
Omacetaxine produced clinically meaningful responses with acceptable tolerability in patients with CML-CP previously treated with 2 or more TKIs.
PMCID: PMC3775895  PMID: 23787123
Dasatinib; Homoharringtonine; Intolerance; Nilotinib; Resistance
2.  Prediction of outcomes in patients with Ph+ chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase treated with nilotinib after imatinib resistance/intolerance 
Leukemia  2012;27(4):907-913.
The purpose was to assess predictive factors for outcome in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in chronic phase (CML-CP) treated with nilotinib after imatinib failure. Imatinib-resistant and -intolerant patients with CML-CP (n = 321) were treated with nilotinib 400 mg twice daily. Of 19 baseline patient and disease characteristics and two response end points analyzed, 10 independent prognostic factors were associated with progression-free survival (PFS). In the multivariate analysis, major cytogenetic response (MCyR) within 12 months, baseline hemoglobin ≥120 g/l, baseline basophils <4%, and absence of baseline mutations with low sensitivity to nilotinib were associated with PFS. A prognostic score was created to stratify patients into five groups (best group: 0 of 3 unfavorable risk factors and MCyR by 12 months; worst group: 3 of 3 unfavorable risk factors and no MCyR by 12 months). Estimated 24-month PFS rates were 90%, 79%, 67% and 37% for patients with prognostic scores of 0, 1, 2 and 3, respectively (no patients with score of 4). Even in the presence of poor disease characteristics, nilotinib provided significant clinical benefit in patients with imatinib-resistant or -intolerant CML. This system may yield insight on the prognosis of patients.
PMCID: PMC4140185  PMID: 23174881
chronic myeloid leukemia; nilotinib; multivariate analysis; predictive model; imatinib intolerance; imatinib resistance
3.  Treatment Recommendations for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia 
The first treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) included spleen x-radiation and conventional drugs, mainly Busulfan and Hydroxyurea. This therapy improved the quality of life during the chronic phase of the disease, without preventing nor significantly delaying the progression towards advanced phases. The introduction of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) marked the first important breakthrough in the evolution of CML treatment, because about 50% of the eligible patients were cured. The second breakthrough was the introduction of human recombinant interferon-alfa, able to achieve a complete cytogenetic remission in 15% to 30% of patients, with a significant survival advantage over conventional chemotherapy. At the end of the last century, about 15 years ago, all these treatments were quickly replaced by a class of small molecules targeting the tyrosine kinases (TK), which were able to induce a major molecular remission in most of the patients, without remarkable side effects, and a very prolonged life-span. The first approved TK inhibitor (TKI) was Imatinib Mesylate (Glivec or Gleevec, Novartis). Rapidly, other TKIs were developed tested and commercialized, namely Dasatinib (Sprycel, Bristol-Myers Squibb), Nilotinib (Tasigna, Novartis), Bosutinib (Busulif, Pfizer) and Ponatinib (Iclusig, Ariad). Not all these compounds are available worldwide; some of them are approved only for second line treatment, and the high prices are a problem that can limit their use. A frequent update of treatment recommendations is necessary. The current treatment goals include not only the prevention of the transformation to the advanced phases and the prolongation of survival, but also a length of survival and of a quality of life comparable to that of non-leukemic individuals. In some patient the next ambitious step is to move towards a treatment-free remission. The CML therapy, the role of alloSCT and the promising experimental strategies are reviewed in the context of the new therapeutic goals.
PMCID: PMC3894838  PMID: 24455114
5.  A Risk Prediction Score for Invasive Mold Disease in Patients with Hematological Malignancies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75531.
A risk score for invasive mold disease (IMD) in patients with hematological malignancies could facilitate patient screening and improve the targeted use of antifungal prophylaxis.
We retrospectively analyzed 1,709 hospital admissions of 840 patients with hematological malignancies (2005-2008) to collect data on 17 epidemiological and treatment-related risk factors for IMD. Multivariate regression was used to develop a weighted risk score based on independent risk factors associated with proven or probable IMD, which was prospectively validated during 1,746 hospital admissions of 855 patients from 2009-2012.
Of the 17 candidate variables analyzed, 11 correlated with IMD by univariate analysis, but only 4 risk factors (neutropenia, lymphocytopenia or lymphocyte dysfunction in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, malignancy status, and prior IMD) were retained in the final multivariate model, resulting in a weighted risk score 0-13. A risk score of < 6 discriminated patients with low (< 1%) versus higher incidence rates (> 5%) of IMD, with a negative predictive value (NPV) of 0.99, (95% CI 0.98-0.99). During 2009-2012, patients with a calculated risk score at admission of < 6 had significantly lower 90-day incidence rates of IMD compared to patients with scores > 6 (0.9% vs. 10.6%, P <0.001).
An objective, weighted risk score for IMD can accurately discriminate patients with hematological malignancies at low risk for developing mold disease, and could possibly facilitate “screening-out” of low risk patients less likely to benefit from intensive diagnostic monitoring or mold-directed antifungal prophylaxis.
PMCID: PMC3784450  PMID: 24086555
6.  IKAROS Deletions Dictate a Unique Gene Expression Signature in Patients with Adult B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40934.
Deletions of IKAROS (IKZF1) frequently occur in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) but the mechanisms by which they influence pathogenesis are unclear. To address this issue, a cohort of 144 adult B-ALL patients (106 BCR-ABL1-positive and 38 B-ALL negative for known molecular rearrangements) was screened for IKZF1 deletions by single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays; a sub-cohort of these patients (44%) was then analyzed for gene expression profiling.
Principal Findings
Total or partial deletions of IKZF1 were more frequent in BCR-ABL1-positive than in BCR-ABL1-negative B-ALL cases (75% vs 58%, respectively, p = 0.04). Comparison of the gene expression signatures of patients carrying IKZF1 deletion vs those without showed a unique signature featured by down-regulation of B-cell lineage and DNA repair genes and up-regulation of genes involved in cell cycle, JAK-STAT signalling and stem cell self-renewal. Through chromatin immunoprecipitation and luciferase reporter assays we corroborated these findings both in vivo and in vitro, showing that Ikaros deleted isoforms lacked the ability to directly regulate a large group of the genes in the signature, such as IGLL1, BLK, EBF1, MSH2, BUB3, ETV6, YES1, CDKN1A (p21), CDKN2C (p18) and MCL1.
Here we identified and validated for the first time molecular pathways specifically controlled by IKZF1, shedding light into IKZF1 role in B-ALL pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3405023  PMID: 22848414
7.  Romiplostim as early treatment of immune thrombocytopenia with severe immunodeficiency 
Hematology Reports  2012;4(2):e10.
Immunosuppressive agents are the standard therapeutic approach for immune thrombocy-topenia (ITP). Their prolonged use may increase the risk of infectious complications, particularly when the patient is already at higher infectious risk. In this setting, the use of drugs with a mechanism of action alternative to immunosuppression, like thrombopoietin receptor agonists (TRAs), may find particular indication. We report the unique case of a patient with severe immunodeficiency and ITP, who experienced a serious infectious complication while on steroids treatment, and who was successfully treated with Romiplostim second-line. The present experience supports the effectiveness and safety of TRAs as early treatment of ITP patients with drug-induced immunodeficiency or with active infections.
PMCID: PMC3401131  PMID: 22826792
immune thrombocytopenia; romi-plostim; TPO receptor agonist; immunodeficiency.
8.  Choosing the Best Second-Line Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor in Imatinib-Resistant Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Patients Harboring Bcr-Abl Kinase Domain Mutations: How Reliable Is the IC50? 
The Oncologist  2011;16(6):868-876.
The pros and cons of using the half maximal inhibitory concentration of tyrosine kinase inhibitors for unmutated and mutated Bcr-Abl to predict which one will work best in chronic myeloid leukemia patients harboring specific Bcr-Abl kinase domain mutations are discussed.
Learning Objectives
After completing this course, the reader will be able to: Explain the IC50 of a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and the kind of information this parameter provides about its efficacy.List the multiple factors that may be responsible for resistance to a target therapeutic agent.Describe the clinical relevance of Bcr-Abl mutations in chronic myeloid leukemia patients.
This article is available for continuing medical education credit at
Development of drug resistance to imatinib mesylate in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients is often accompanied by selection of point mutations in the kinase domain (KD) of the Bcr-Abl oncoprotein, where imatinib binds. Several second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been designed rationally so as to enhance potency and retain the ability to bind mutated forms of Bcr-Abl. Since the preclinical phase of their development, most of these inhibitors have been tested in in vitro studies to assess their half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) for unmutated and mutated Bcr-Abl—that is, the drug concentration required to inhibit the cell proliferation or the phosphorylation processes driven by either the unmutated or the mutated forms of the kinase. A number of such studies have been published, and now that two inhibitors—dasatinib and nilotinib—are available for the treatment of imatinib-resistant cases, it is tempting for clinicians to reason on the IC50 values to guess, case by case, which one will work best in patients harboring specific Bcr-Abl KD mutations. Here, we discuss the pros and cons of using this approach in TKI selection.
PMCID: PMC3228229  PMID: 21632458
Chronic myeloid leukemia; Imatinib; Nilotinib; Dasatinib; Bcr-Abl mutations
9.  Cytogenetic and Molecular Predictors of Outcome in Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: Recent Developments 
During the last decade a tremendous technologic progress based on genome-wide profiling of genetic aberrations, structural DNA alterations, and sequence variations has allowed a better understanding of the molecular basis of pediatric and adult B/T- acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), contributing to a better recognition of the biological heterogeneity of ALL and to a more precise definition of risk factors. Importantly, these advances identified novel potential targets for therapeutic intervention. This review will be focused on the cytogenetic/molecular advances in pediatric and adult ALL based on recently published articles.
PMCID: PMC3342501  PMID: 22528731
ALL; Acute lymphoblastic leukemia; SNP array; Next generation sequencing; Medicine & Public Health; Oncology; Hematology; Geriatrics/Gerontology
11.  Nilotinib is active in chronic and accelerated phase chronic myeloid leukemia following failure of imatinib and dasatinib therapy 
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.
PMCID: PMC3078756  PMID: 20520639
Imatinib; dasatinib; nilotinib; resistance; abl inhibitors
12.  Sinonasal risk factors for the development of invasive fungal sinusitis in hematological patients: Are they important? 
Allergy & Rhinology  2011;2(1):6-11.
Invasive fungal sinusitis (IFS) is a highly aggressive infection that can affect hematologic patients. The classically described general risk factors, however, do not fully explain the development of IFS in a small percentage of cases. This study examined the impact of anatomic sinonasal factors and environmental factors on the development of IFS in high-risk patients. Medical records and computed tomography (CT) scans of patients admitted to our institution who were at high risk of developing IFS were retrospectively reviewed. Twenty-seven patients of 797 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Patients affected by IFS were compared with patients not affected to identify possible sinonasal and environmental risk factors of IFS. Seven patients were excluded because of the lack of adequate radiological images. Six of the 20 eligible patients were assigned to the study group of patients affected by IFS and the remaining 14 patients were assigned to the control group. All but one case developed the infection during the summer with a significantly higher mean environmental temperature (p = 0.002). Anatomic nasal alterations were found in all patients affected by IFS and were significantly more frequent than in the control group (p = 0.014). It would be advisable to have patients with hematologic risk factors of IFS, especially during the summer period, undergo endoscopic nasal assessment. Furthermore, a CT finding of anatomic nasal alterations, such as anterior nasal septum deviation causing nasal obstruction, should increase the suspicion of IFS in case of the occurrence of nasal symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3390131  PMID: 22852108
fungal infection; hematologic malignancy; invasive fungal sinusitis; nasal endoscopy; sinonasal risk factors; sinus endoscopic surgery
14.  Aurora kinase inhibitors: which role in the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia patients resistant to imatinib? 
Hematology Reviews  2009;1(1):e1.
At present, there are no compounds in clinical development in the field of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) or Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that have been documented to harbor significant activity against the imatinib-resistant T315I mutation. Recent reports on the pre-clinical activity of some emerging tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as ON012380, VX-680 and PHA-739358 promise possible clinical efficacy against this specific Bcr-Abl mutant form. Here, we focus on the role of aurora kinase inhibitor VX-680 and PHA-739358 in blocking the leukemogenic pathways driven by wild-type and T315I-Bcr-Abl in CML or Ph+ ALL by reviewing recent research evidence. We also discuss the possibility of employing aurora kinase inhibitors as a promising new therapeutic approach in the treatment of CML and Ph+ ALL patients resistant to first and second generation TK inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3222242
chronic myeloid leukemia; Bcr-Abl; imatinib, resistance; mutations; dasatinib; nilotinib; inhibitors.
15.  Update on the treatment of disseminated fusariosis: Focus on voriconazole 
Invasive fungal infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients, such as subjects with hematological malignancies and patients who underwent to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or solid organ transplantation (SOT). Fusarium spp. cause a broad spectrum of infections in humans. Immunologically competent hosts show mainly localized skin infections, whereas disseminated fusariosis occurs almost exclusively in immunocompromised patients. Fusarium spp. are resistant to many antifungal agents with equivocal in vitro and in vivo susceptibility to amphotericin B. Voriconazole (VRC) is a triazole shown to be safe, well tolerated, and in vitro efficacious against Fusarium spp. Although clinical experience is limited, many case reports have shown the efficacy of VRC in the treatment of fusariosis.
PMCID: PMC2387295  PMID: 18516266
fusariosis; voriconazole; immunocompromised patient; cancer; fungal infections; aspergillus
16.  Nilotinib: a novel encouraging therapeutic option for chronic myeloid leukemia patients with imatinib resistance or intolerance 
Biologics : Targets & Therapy  2007;1(2):121-127.
Although high rates of complete hematologic and cytogenetic remission have been observed in patients with chronic phase chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) treated with imatinib, a short duration of response with eventual emergence of imatinib resistance has also been reported in a subset of CML patients. The most frequent clinically relevant mechanisms that change imatinib sensitivity in BCR-ABL-transformed cells are mutations within the Abl kinase domain, affecting several of its properties. Crystal structure analysis of the Abl-imatinib complex has proven helpful in identifying potential critical residues that hinder interactions of imatinib with mutated Abl. This has led to the development of a second generation of targeted therapies such as nilotinib and dasatinib, already in phase II clinical trials or SKI-606 and MK-0457 in phase I trials. In this review, we discuss the activity of nilotinib, developed by Novartis using a rational drug design strategy in which imatinib served as the lead compound. Preliminary studies demonstrated that nilotinib has more efficacy than imatinib in inhibiting proliferation of BCR-ABL-dependent cells, a relatively safety profile and clinical efficacy in all phases of CML.
PMCID: PMC2721303  PMID: 19707322
Chronic myeloid leukemia; imatinib resistance; nilotinib
17.  Gene expression analysis of peripheral T cell lymphoma, unspecified, reveals distinct profiles and new potential therapeutic targets 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(3):823-834.
Peripheral T cell lymphoma, unspecified (PTCL/U), the most common form of PTCL, displays heterogeneous morphology and phenotype, poor response to treatment, and poor prognosis. We demonstrate that PTCL/U shows a gene expression profile clearly distinct from that of normal T cells. Comparison with the profiles of purified T cell subpopulations (CD4+, CD8+, resting [HLA-DR–], and activated [HLA-DR+]) reveals that PTCLs/U are most closely related to activated peripheral T lymphocytes, either CD4+ or CD8+. Interestingly, the global gene expression profile cannot be surrogated by routine CD4/CD8 immunohistochemistry. When compared with normal T cells, PTCLs/U display deregulation of functional programs often involved in tumorigenesis (e.g., apoptosis, proliferation, cell adhesion, and matrix remodeling). Products of deregulated genes can be detected in PTCLs/U by immunohistochemistry with an ectopic, paraphysiologic, or stromal location. PTCLs/U aberrantly express, among others, PDGFRα, a tyrosine-kinase receptor, whose deregulation is often related to a malignant phenotype. Notably, both phosphorylation of PDGFRα and sensitivity of cultured PTCL cells to imatinib (as well as to an inhibitor of histone deacetylase) were found. These results, which might be extended to other more rare PTCL categories, provide insight into tumor pathogenesis and clinical management of PTCL/U.
PMCID: PMC1794115  PMID: 17304354

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