Leukemic cells from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) patients interact with stromal cells of the surrounding microenvironment. Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSCs) represent the main population in CLL marrow stroma, which may play a key role for disease support and progression. In this study we evaluated whether MSCs influence in vitro CLL cell survival. MSCs were isolated from the bone marrow of 46 CLL patients and were characterized by flow cytometry analysis. Following co-culture of MSCs and leukemic B cells, we demonstrated that MSCs were able to improve leukemic B cell viability, this latter being differently dependent from the signals coming from MSCs. In addition, we found that the co-culture of MSCs with leukemic B cells induced an increased production of IL-8, CCL4, CCL11, and CXCL10 chemokines.
As far as drug resistance is concerned, MSCs counteract the cytotoxic effect of Fludarabine/Cyclophosphamide administration in vivo, whereas they do not protect CLL cells from the apoptosis induced by the kinase inhibitors Bafetinib and Ibrutinib. The evidence that leukemic clones are conditioned by environmental stimuli suggest new putative targets for therapy in CLL patients.
chronic lymphocytic leukemia; mesenchymal stromal cells; kinase inhibitors
Serine-threonine kinase CK2 is highly expressed and pivotal for survival and proliferation in multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma. Here, we investigated the expression of α catalytic and β regulatory CK2 subunits by immunohistochemistry in 57 follicular (FL), 18 Burkitt (BL), 52 diffuse large B-cell (DLBCL) non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) and in normal reactive follicles. In silico evaluation of available Gene Expression Profile (GEP) data sets from patients and Western blot (WB) analysis in NHL cell-lines were also performed. Moreover, the novel, clinical-grade, ATP-competitive CK2-inhibitor CX-4945 (Silmitasertib) was assayed on lymphoma cells. CK2 was detected in 98.4% of cases with a trend towards a stronger CK2α immunostain in BL compared to FL and DLBCL. No significant differences were observed between Germinal Center B (GCB) and non-GCB DLBCL types. GEP data and WB confirmed elevated CK2 mRNA and protein levels as well as active phosphorylation of specific targets in NHL cells. CX-4945 caused a dose-dependent growth-arresting effect on GCB, non-GCB DLBCL and BL cell-lines and it efficiently shut off phosphorylation of NF-κB RelA and CDC37 on CK2 target sites. Thus, CK2 is highly expressed and could represent a suitable therapeutic target in BL, FL and DLBCL NHL.
CK2; Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; CX-4945; B-cell
The anti-CD20 antibody rituximab (RTX; Rituxan®, MabThera®) was the first anti-cancer antibody approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1997 and it is now the most-studied unconjugated therapeutic antibody. The knowledge gained over the past 15 y on the pharmacodynamics (PD) of this antibody has led to the development of a new generation of anti-CD20 antibodies with enhanced efficacy in vitro. Studies on the pharmacokinetics (PK) properties and the effect of factors such as tumor load and localization, antibody concentration in the circulation and gender on both PK and clinical response has allowed the design of optimized schedules and novel routes of RTX administration. Although clinical results using newer anti-CD20 antibodies, such as ofatumumab and obinutuzumab, and novel administration schedules for RTX are still being evaluated, the knowledge gained so far on RTX PK and PD should also be relevant for other unconjugated monoclonal antibody therapeutics, and will be critically reviewed here.
B-NHL; CLL; FcRn; FcγRs; pharmacodynamics; pharmacokinetics; rituximab
Mature Large Granular lymphocytes (LGL) disorders include a spectrum of conditions, ranging from polyclonal to clonal indolent and/or overt leukemic LGL proliferations. Most cases are represented by clonal expansions of TCRα/β+ LGL displaying a CD8+ phenotype with expression of cytotoxic T-cell antigens (CD57, CD16, TIA-1, perforin and granzyme B). Proliferations of CD3-CD16+ NK cells with a restricted patter of NK receptors are less common, usually comprising 15% of the cases. Main features are cytopenias, splenomegaly and autoimmune phenomena. Morphology, immunophenotyping and molecular analyses are crucial to establish a correct diagnosis of disease. According to the 2008 WHO classification, two separate entities account for the majority of cases, T-LGL leukemia and Chronic Lymphoproliferative Disease of NK cell (this latter still provisional). Although these disorders are characterized by the expansion of different cells types i.e. T and NK cells, with specific genetic features and abnormalities, compelling evidence supports the hypothesis that a common pathogenic mechanism would be involved in both disorders. As a matter of fact, a foreign antigen driven clonal selection is considered the initial step in the mechanism ultimately leading to generation of both conditions. In this chapter we will discuss recent advances on the pathogenesis of chronic T and NK disorders of granular lymphocytes, challenging the current WHO classification on the opportunity to separate T and NK disorders, which are likely to represent two sides of the same coin.
CTL; NK cells; T-LGL leukemia; CLPD-NK
Human natural killer (NK) cells are functionally regulated by killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and their interactions with HLA class I molecules. As KIR expression in a given NK cell is stochastically established, KIR repertoire perturbations reflect a dominance of discrete NK-cell subsets as the consequence of adaptation of the NK-cell compartment to exogenous agents, more often represented by virus infection. Although inhibitory interactions between KIR and their cognate HLA class I ligands abrogate effector responses of NK cells, they are also required for the functional education of NK cell. The biology and molecular specificities of the activating KIRs are less well defined, and most interactions with presumed HLA class I ligands are weak. Interestingly, epidemiologic studies link activating KIR genes to resistance against numerous virus infections. Chronic lymphoproliferative disorder of NK cells (CLPD-NK) is an indolent NK cell disease characterized by a persistent increase of circulating NK cells (usually exceeding 500 NK cells/mm3). The mechanism through which NK cells are induced to proliferate during CLPD-NK pathogenesis is still a matter of debate. Accumulating data suggest that exogenous agents, in particular viruses, might play a role. The etiology of CLPD-NK, however, is largely unknown. This is likely due to the fact that not a single, specific agent is responsible for the NK cells proliferation, which perhaps represents the expression of an abnormal processing of different foreign antigens, sharing a chronic inflammatory background. Interestingly, proliferating NK cells are typically characterized by expression of a restricted pattern of KIR, which have been demonstrated to be mostly represented by the activating form. This finding indicates that these receptors may be directly involved in the priming of NK cells proliferation.
CLPD-NK; activating KIRs; viral infections; NK cell licensing; pathogenesis in NK disorders
The involvement of protein kinase CK2 in sustaining cancer cell survival could have implications also in the resistance to conventional and unconventional therapies. Moreover, CK2 role in blood tumors is rapidly emerging and this kinase has been recognized as a potential therapeutic target. Phase I clinical trials with the oral small ATP-competitive CK2 inhibitor CX-4945 are currently ongoing in solid tumors and multiple myeloma.
We have analyzed the expression of CK2 in acute myeloid leukemia and its function in cell growth and in the response to the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin We employed acute myeloid leukemia cell lines and primary blasts from patients grouped according to the European LeukemiaNet risk classification. Cell survival, apoptosis and sensitivity to daunorubicin were assessed by different means. p53-dependent CK2-inhibition-induced apoptosis was investigated in p53 wild-type and mutant cells.
CK2α was found highly expressed in the majority of samples across the different acute myeloid leukemia prognostic subgroups as compared to normal CD34+ hematopoietic and bone marrow cells. Inhibition of CK2 with CX-4945, K27 or siRNAs caused a p53-dependent acute myeloid leukemia cell apoptosis. CK2 inhibition was associated with a synergistic increase of the cytotoxic effects of daunorubicin. Baseline and daunorubicin-induced STAT3 activation was hampered upon CK2 blockade.
These results suggest that CK2 is over expressed across the different acute myeloid leukemia subsets and acts as an important regulator of acute myeloid leukemia cell survival. CK2 negative regulation of the protein levels of tumor suppressor p53 and activation of the STAT3 anti-apoptotic pathway might antagonize apoptosis and could be involved in acute myeloid leukemia cell resistance to daunorubicin.
Acute myeloid leukemia; Kinase inhibitors; Protein kinase CK2; CX-4945; p53; Daunorubicin; STAT3; Apoptosis
CK2 is a pivotal pro-survival protein kinase in multiple myeloma that may likely impinge on bortezomib-regulated cellular pathways. In the present study, we investigated CK2 expression in multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma, two bortezomib-responsive B cell tumors, as well as its involvement in bortezomib-induced cytotoxicity and signaling cascades potentially mediating bortezomib resistance. In both tumors, CK2 expression correlated with that of its activated targets NF-κB and STAT3 transcription factors. Bortezomib-induced proliferation arrest and apoptosis were significantly amplified by the simultaneous inhibition of CK2 with two inhibitors (CX-4945 and K27) in multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma cell lines, in a model of multiple myeloma bone marrow microenvironment and in cells isolated from patients. CK2 inhibition empowered bortezomib-triggered mitochondrial-dependent cell death. Phosphorylation of NF-κB p65 on Ser529 (a CK2 target site) and rise of the levels of the endoplasmic reticulum stress kinase/endoribonuclease Ire1α were markedly reduced upon CK2 inhibition, as were STAT3 phospho Ser727 levels. On the contrary, CK2 inhibition increased phospho Ser51 eIF2α levels and enhanced the bortezomib-dependent accumulation of poly-ubiquitylated proteins and of the proteotoxic stress-associated chaperone Hsp70. Our data suggest that CK2 over expression in multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma cells might sustain survival signaling cascades and can antagonize bortezomib-induced apoptosis at different levels. CK2 inhibitors could be useful in bortezomib-based combination therapies.
Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a well defined clinico-pathological entity whose underlying genetic lesion is still obscure.
We searched for HCL-associated mutations by massively parallel sequencing of the whole exome of leukemic and matched normal mononuclear cells purified from the peripheral blood of one patient with HCL.
Whole exome sequencing identified 5 missense somatic clonal mutations that were confirmed at Sanger sequencing, including a heterozygous V600E mutation involving the BRAF gene. Since the BRAF V600E mutation is oncogenic in other tumors, further analyses were focused on this genetic lesion. Sanger sequencing detected mutated BRAF in 46/46 additional HCL patients (47/47 including the index case; 100%). None of the 193 peripheral B-cell lymphomas/leukemias other than HCL that were investigated carried the BRAF V600E mutation, including 36 cases of splenic marginal zone lymphomas and unclassifiable splenic lymphomas/leukemias. Immunohistological and Western blot studies showed that HCL cells express phospho-MEK and phospho-ERK (the downstream targets of the BRAF kinase), indicating a constitutive activation of the RAF-MEK-ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in HCL. In vitro incubation of BRAF-mutated primary leukemic cells from 5 HCL patients with PLX-4720, a specific inhibitor of active BRAF, led to marked decrease of phosphorylated ERK and MEK.
The BRAF V600E mutation was present in all HCL patients investigated. This finding may have relevant implications for the pathogenesis, diagnosis and targeted therapy of HCL (Funded by the Associazione Italiana Ricerca Cancro and others).
Blood and spleen expansion of immature myeloid cells (IMCs) might compromise the immune response to cancer. We studied in vivo circulating and splenic T lymphocyte and IMC subsets in patients with benign and malignant pancreatic diseases. We ascertained in vitro whether pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC)-associated IMC subsets are induced by tumor-derived soluble factors and whether they are immunosuppressive focusing on the inhibitory co-stimulatory molecules PDL1 and CTLA4.
Methodology and Principal Findings
103 pancreatic and/or splenic surgical patients were enrolled including 52 PDAC, 10 borderline and 10 neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). Lymphocytes and IMCs were analysed by flow cytometry in blood, in spleen and in three PDAC cell conditioned (CM) or non conditioned PBMC. PDL1 and CTLA4 were studied in 30 splenic samples, in control and conditioned PBMC. IMCs were FACS sorted and co-coltured with allogenic T lymphocytes. In PDAC a reduction was found in circulating CD8+ lymphocytes (p = 0.004) and dendritic cells (p = 0.01), which were reduced in vitro by one PDAC CM (Capan1; p = 0.03). Blood myeloid derived suppressive cells (MDSCs) CD33+CD14−HLA-DR− were increased in PDAC (p = 0.022) and were induced in vitro by BxPC3 CM. Splenic dendritic cells had a higher PDL1 expression (p = 0.007), while CD33+CD14+HLA-DR− IMCs had a lower CTLA4 expression (p = 0.029) in PDAC patients. In vitro S100A8/A9 complex, one of the possible inflammatory mediators of immune suppression in PDAC, induced PDL1 (p = 0.018) and reduced CTLA4 expression (p = 0.028) among IMCs. IMCs not expressing CTLA4 were demonstrated to be immune suppressive.
In PDAC circulating dendritic and cytotoxic T cells are reduced, while MDSCs are increased and this might favour tumoral growth and progression. The reduced CTLA4 expression found among splenic IMCs of PDAC patients was demonstrated to characterize an immune suppressive phenotype and to be consequent to the direct exposure of myeloid cells to pancreatic cancer derived products, S100A8/A9 complex in particular.
In B-Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (B-CLL) kinase Lyn is overexpressed, active, abnormally distributed, and part of a cytosolic complex involving hematopoietic lineage cell-specific protein 1 (HS1). These aberrant properties of Lyn could partially explain leukemic cells’ defective apoptosis, directly or through its substrates, for example, HS1 that has been associated to apoptosis in different cell types. To verify the hypothesis of HS1 involvement in Lyn-mediated leukemic cell survival, we investigated HS1 protein in 71 untreated B-CLL patients and 26 healthy controls. We found HS1 overexpressed in leukemic as compared to normal B lymphocytes (1.38±0.54 vs 0.86±0.29, p<0.01), and when HS1 levels were correlated to clinical parameters we found a higher expression of HS1 in poor-prognosis patients. Moreover, HS1 levels significantly decreased in ex vivo leukemic cells of patients responding to a fludarabine-containing regimen. We also observed that HS1 is partially localized in the nucleus of neoplastic B cells. All these data add new information on HS1 study, hypothesizing a pivotal role of HS1 in Lyn-mediated modulation of leukemic cells’ survival and focusing, one more time, the attention on the BCR-Lyn axis as a putative target for new therapeutic strategies in this disorder.
To detect factors associated with quality of life (QOL) of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and to compare the MDS patients’ self-assessed QOL with that perceived by their physicians. In an observational, non-interventional, prospective, multicentre study, QOL was evaluated in 148 patients with newly diagnosed low- and intermediate-risk IPSS MDS. QOL measures (QOL-E v.2, LASA and EQ-5D) and patient-related candidate determinants of QOL were assessed for up to 18 months. Patients' QOL scores were compared with those obtained by appointed hematologists’ assessment and with ECOG performance status (PS). Fatigue was not prevalent at diagnosis, though physical QOL and energy levels were low. Transfusion-dependent patients had worse QOL scores. In multivariate analysis, Hb levels and comorbidities were a major determinant of QOL. Physicians’ perception of patients’ well-being correlated with patients’ QOL. Physicians underestimated the impact of disturbances on patients’ QOL, mainly in the MDS-specific components. ECOG PS did not discriminate patients according to QOL status. In conclusion, the association of anemia with QOL is confirmed, while co-morbidities emerge as an independent predictor of QOL in MDS. Fatigue is not a major concern. ECOG PS is not a valuable surrogate of patient’s QOL, thus highlighting that physician’s judgment of patient’s well-being must not substitute patient-reported outcomes. Appropriate questionnaires should be used to assess MDS patients’ QOL in order to improve communication and therapeutic choice.
Myelodysplastic syndromes; quality of life; comorbidities; anemia; transfusion-dependence; patient-reported outcomes
Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 (GSK-3) α and β are two serine-threonine kinases controlling insulin, Wnt/β-catenin, NF-κB signaling and other cancer-associated transduction pathways. Recent evidence suggests that GSK-3 could function as growth-promoting kinases, especially in malignant cells. In this study, we have investigated GSK-3α and GSK-3β function in multiple myeloma (MM).
GSK-3 α and β expression and cellular localization were investigated by Western blot (WB) and immunofluorescence analysis in a panel of MM cell lines and in freshly isolated plasma cells from patients. MM cell growth, viability and sensitivity to bortezomib was assessed upon treatment with GSK-3 specific inhibitors or transfection with siRNAs against GSK-3 α and β isoforms. Survival signaling pathways were studied with WB analysis.
GSK-3α and GSK-3β were differently expressed and phosphorylated in MM cells. Inhibition of GSK-3 with the ATP-competitive, small chemical compounds SB216763 and SB415286 caused MM cell growth arrest and apoptosis through the activation of the intrinsic pathway. Importantly, the two inhibitors augmented the bortezomib-induced MM cell cytotoxicity. RNA interference experiments showed that the two GSK-3 isoforms have distinct roles: GSK-3β knock down decreased MM cell viability, while GSK-3α knock down was associated with a higher rate of bortezomib-induced cytotoxicity. GSK-3 inhibition caused accumulation of β-catenin and nuclear phospho-ERK1, 2. Moreover, GSK-3 inhibition and GSK-3α knockdown enhanced bortezomib-induced AKT and MCL-1 protein degradation. Interestingly, bortezomib caused a reduction of GSK-3 serine phosphorylation and its nuclear accumulation with a mechanism that resulted partly dependent on GSK-3 itself.
These data suggest that in MM cells GSK-3α and β i) play distinct roles in cell survival and ii) modulate the sensitivity to proteasome inhibitors.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is an interstitial lung disease caused by repeated inhalations of finely dispersed organic particles or low molecular weight chemicals. The disease is characterized by an alveolitis sustained by CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes, granuloma formation, and, whenever antigenic exposition continues, fibrosis. Although it is known that T-cell migration into the lungs is crucial in HP reaction, mechanisms implicated in this process remain undefined.
Using flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy analysis and chemotaxis assays we evaluated whether CXCL10 and its receptor CXCR3 regulate the trafficking of CD8(+) T cells in HP lung.
Our data demonstrated that lymphocytes infiltrating lung biopsies are CD8 T cells which strongly stain for CXCR3. However, T cells accumulating in the BAL of HP were CXCR3(+)/IFNγ(+) Tc1 cells exhibiting a strong in vitro migratory capability in response to CXCL10. Alveolar macrophages expressed and secreted, in response to IFN-γ, definite levels of CXCL10 capable of inducing chemotaxis of the CXCR3(+) T-cell line. Interestingly, striking levels of CXCR3 ligands could be demonstrated in the fluid component of the BAL in individuals with HP.
These data indicate that IFN-γ mediates the recruitment of lymphocytes into the lung via production of the chemokine CXCL10, resulting in Tc1-cell alveolitis and granuloma formation.
B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is a neoplastic disorder characterized by accumulation of B lymphocytes due to uncontrolled growth and resistance to apoptosis. Analysis of B cells freshly isolated from 40 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia demonstrated that the Src kinase Lyn, the switch molecule that couples the B cell receptor to downstream signaling, displays anomalous properties. Lyn is remarkably overexpressed at the protein level in leukemic cells as compared with normal B lymphocytes, with a substantial aliquot of the kinase anomalously present in the cytosol. Whereas in normal B lymphocytes Lyn activation is dependent on B cell–receptor stimulation, in resting malignant cells, the constitutive activity of the kinase accounts for high basal protein tyrosine phosphorylation and low responsiveness to IgM ligation. Addition of the Lyn inhibitors PP2 and SU6656 to leukemic cell cultures restores cell apoptosis, and treatment of malignant cells with drugs that induce cell apoptosis decreases both activity and amount of the tyrosine kinase. These findings suggest a direct correlation between high basal Lyn activity and defects in the induction of apoptosis in leukemic cells. They also support a critical role for Lyn in B-CLL pathogenesis and identify this tyrosine kinase as a potential therapeutic target.
B- and T-cell recirculation is crucial for the function of the immune system, with the control of cell migration being mainly mediated by several chemokines and their receptors. In this study, we investigated the expression and function of CXCR3 on normal and malignant B cells from 65 patients with chronic lymphoproliferative disorders (CLDs). Although CXCR3 is lacking on CD5+ and CD5– B cells from healthy subjects, it is expressed on leukemic B lymphocytes from all (31/31) patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The presence of CXCR3 was heterogeneous in other B-cell disorders, being expressed in 2 of 7 patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), 4 of 12 patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL), and 11 of 15 patients with other subtypes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (NHLs). Chemotaxis assay shows that normal B cells from healthy subjects do not migrate in response to IFN-inducible protein 10 (IP-10) and IFN-γ–induced monokine (Mig). In contrast, a definite migration in response to IP-10 and Mig has been observed in all malignant B cells from patients with CLL, but not in patients with HCL or MCL (1/7 cases tested). Neoplastic B cells from other NHLs showed a heterogenous pattern. The migration elicited by IP-10 and Mig was inhibited by blocking CXCR3. No effect of IP-10 and Mig chemokines was observed on the cytosolic calcium concentration in malignant B cells. The data reported here demonstrate that CXCR3 is expressed on malignant B cells from CLDs, particularly in patients with CLL, and represents a fully functional receptor involved in chemotaxis of malignant B lymphocytes.