T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive form of leukemia that is mainly diagnosed in children and shows a skewed gender distribution towards males. Here, we report somatic loss-of-function mutations in the X-linked histone H3K27me3 demethylase UTX in human T-ALL. Interestingly, UTX mutations were exclusively present in male T-ALL patients and allelic expression analysis revealed that UTX escapes X-inactivation in female T-ALL lymphoblasts and normal T-cells. Notably, we demonstrate in vitro and in vivo that the H3K27me3 demethylase Utx functions as a bona fide tumor suppressor in T-ALL. Moreover, T-ALL driven by UTX inactivation exhibits collateral sensitivity to pharmacological H3K27me3 inhibition. All together, our results show how a gender-specific and therapeutically relevant defect in balancing H3K27 methylation contributes to T-cell leukemogenesis.
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is a high-risk subtype of ALL with gradually improved survival through introduction of intensified chemotherapy. However, therapy-resistant or refractory T-ALL remains a major clinical challenge. Here, we evaluated BCL-2 inhibition by the BH3 mimetic ABT-199 as a new therapeutic strategy in human T-ALL. The T-ALL cell line LOUCY, which shows a transcriptional program related to immature T-ALL, exhibited high in vitro and in vivo sensitivity for ABT-199 in correspondence with high levels of BCL-2. In addition, ABT-199 showed synergistic therapeutic effects with different chemotherapeutic agents including doxorubicin, L-asparaginase and dexamethasone. Furthermore, in vitro analysis of primary patient samples indicated that some immature, TLX3 or HOXA positive primary T-ALLs are highly sensitive to BCL-2 inhibition, whereas TAL1 driven tumors mostly showed poor ABT-199 responses. Since BCL-2 shows high expression in early T-cell precursors and gradually decreases during normal T-cell differentiation, differences in ABT-199 sensitivity could partially be mediated by distinct stages of differentiation arrest between different molecular genetic subtypes of human T-ALL. In conclusion, our study highlights BCL-2 as an attractive molecular target in specific subtypes of human T-ALL that could be exploited by ABT-199.
Aberrant DNA methylation at specific genetic loci is a key molecular feature of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) with poor prognosis. Using quantitative high-resolution mass spectrometry, we identified RASA4 isoform 2, which maps to chromosome 7 and encodes a member of the GAP1 family of GTPase-activating proteins for small G proteins, as a recurrent target of isoform-specific DNA hypermethylation in JMML (51% of 125 patients analyzed). RASA4 isoform 2 promoter methylation correlated with clinical parameters predicting poor prognosis (older age, elevated fetal hemoglobin), with higher risk of relapse after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and with PTPN11 mutation. The level of isoform 2 methylation increased in relapsed cases after transplantation. Interestingly, most JMML cases with monosomy 7 exhibited hypermethylation on the remaining RASA4 allele. The results corroborate the significance of epigenetic modifications in the phenotype of aggressive JMML.
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia arises from the leukemic transformation of developing thymocytes and results from cooperative genetic lesions. Inactivation of the PHF6 gene is frequently observed in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, suggesting an important tumor suppressive role for PHF6 in the pathobiology of this leukemia. Although the precise function of PHF6 is still unknown, this gene is most likely involved in chromatin regulation, a strongly emerging theme in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In this context, our previous description of a cooperative microRNA regulatory network controlling several well-known T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia tumor suppressor genes, including PHF6, is of great importance. Given the high frequency of PHF6 lesions in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the integration of PHF6 in this microRNA regulatory network, we aimed to identify novel oncogenic microRNAs in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia which suppress PHF6. To this end, we performed an unbiased PHF6 3'UTR-microRNA library screen and combined the results with microRNA profiling data of samples from patients with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and normal thymocyte subsets. We selected miR-128-3p as a candidate PHF6-targeting, oncogenic microRNA and demonstrated regulation of PHF6 expression upon modulation of this microRNA in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell lines. In vivo evidence of an oncogenic role of this microRNA in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia was obtained through accelerated leukemia onset in a NOTCH1-induced T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia mouse model upon miR-128-3p over-expression. We conclude that miR-128-3p is a strong novel candidate oncogenic microRNA in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia which targets the PHF6 tumor suppressor gene.
Dexamethasone could be more effective than prednisolone at similar anti-inflammatory doses in the treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In order to check if this "superiority" of dexamethasone might be dose-dependent, we conducted a randomized phase III trial comparing dexamethasone (6 mg/m(2)/day) to prednisolone (60 mg/m(2)/day) in induction therapy. All newly diagnosed children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the 58951 EORTC trial were randomized on prephase day 1 or day 8. The main endpoint was event-free survival; secondary endpoints were overall survival and toxicity. A total of 1947 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia were randomized. At a median follow-up of 6.9 years, the 8-year event-free survival rate was 81.5% in the dexamethasone arm and 81.2% in the prednisolone arm; the 8-year overall survival rates were 87.2% and 89.0% respectively. The 8-year incidences of isolated or combined central nervous system relapse were 2.9% and 4.5% in the dexamethasone and prednisolone arms, respectively. The incidence of grade 3-4 toxicities during induction and the frequency of osteonecrosis were similar in the two arms. In conclusion, dexamethasone and prednisolone, used respectively at the doses of 6 and 60 mg/m(2)/day during induction, were equally effective and had a similar toxicity profile. Dexamethasone decreased the 8-year central nervous system relapse incidence by 1.6%. This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00003728.
Refractory cytopenia of childhood is the most common subtype of myelodysplastic syndrome in children. In this paper, we compared the outcome of immunosuppressive therapy using horse anti-thymocyte globulin (n = 46) with that using rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (n = 49) in 95 patients with refractory cytopenia of childhood and hypocellular bone marrow. The response rate at 6 months was 74% for horse anti-thymocyte globulin and 53% for rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (p = 0.04). The inferior response in the rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin group resulted in lower 4-year-transplantation-free (69% vs. 46%; p = 0.003) and failure-free (58% vs. 48%; p = 0.04) survival in this group compared with those in the horse anti-thymocyte globulin group. However, because of successful second-line hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, overall survival was comparable between groups (91% vs. 85%, p = ns). The cumulative incidence of relapse (15% vs. 9%, p = ns) and clonal evolution (12% vs. 4%, p = ns) at 4 years was comparable between groups. Our results suggest that the outcome of immunosuppressive therapy with rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin is inferior to that of horse anti-thymocyte globulin. Although immunosuppressive therapy is an effective therapy in selected patients with refractory cytopenia of childhood, the long-term risk of relapse or clonal evolution remains. (ClinicalTrial.gov identifiers: NCT00662090).
In pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), cytogenetic abnormalities are strong indicators of prognosis. Some recurrent cytogenetic abnormalities, such as t(8;16)(p11;p13), are so rare that collaborative studies are required to define their prognostic impact. We collected the clinical characteristics, morphology, and immunophenotypes of 62 pediatric AML patients with t(8;16)(p11;p13) from 18 countries participating in the International Berlin-Frankfurt-Münster (I-BFM) AML study group. We used the AML-BFM cohort diagnosed from 1995-2005 (n = 543) as a reference cohort. Median age of the pediatric t(8;16)(p11;p13) AML patients was significantly lower (1.2 years). The majority (97%) had M4-M5 French-American-British type, significantly different from the reference cohort. Erythrophagocytosis (70%), leukemia cutis (58%), and disseminated intravascular coagulation (39%) occurred frequently. Strikingly, spontaneous remissions occurred in 7 neonates with t(8;16)(p11;p13), of whom 3 remain in continuous remission. The 5-year overall survival of patients diagnosed after 1993 was 59%, similar to the reference cohort (P = .14). Gene expression profiles of t(8;16)(p11;p13) pediatric AML cases clustered close to, but distinct from, MLL-rearranged AML. Highly expressed genes included HOXA11, HOXA10, RET, PERP, and GGA2. In conclusion, pediatric t(8;16)(p11;p13) AML is a rare entity defined by a unique gene expression signature and distinct clinical features in whom spontaneous remissions occur in a subset of neonatal cases.
Human Autosomal Recessive Osteopetrosis (ARO) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder caused by reduced bone resorption by osteoclasts. In 2000, we found that mutations in the TCIRG1 gene encoding for a subunit of the proton pump (V-ATPase) are responsible for more than one-half of ARO cases. Since then, five additional genes have been demonstrated to be involved in the pathogenesis of the disease, leaving approximately 25% of cases that could not be associated with a genotype. Very recently, a mutation in the sorting nexin 10 (SNX10) gene, whose product is suggested to interact with the proton pump, has been found in 3 consanguineous families of Palestinian origin, thus adding a new candidate gene in patients not previously classified. Here we report the identification of 9 novel mutations in this gene in 14 ARO patients from 12 unrelated families of different geographic origin. Interestingly, we define the molecular defect in three cases of "Västerbottenian osteopetrosis," named for the Swedish Province where a higher incidence of the disease has been reported. In our cohort of more than 310 patients from all over the world, SNX10-dependent ARO constitutes 4% of the cases, with a frequency comparable to the receptor activator of NF-?B ligand (RANKL), receptor activator of NF-?B (RANK) and osteopetrosis-associated transmembrane protein 1 (OSTM1)-dependent subsets. Although the clinical presentation is relatively variable in severity, bone seems to be the only affected tissue and the defect can be almost completely rescued by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). These results confirm the involvement of the SNX10 gene in human ARO and identify a new subset with a relatively favorable prognosis as compared to TCIRG1-dependent cases. Further analyses will help to better understand the role of SNX10 in osteoclast physiology and verify whether this protein might be considered a new target for selective antiresorptive therapies.
Aberrant DNA methylation contributes to the malignant phenotype in virtually all types of cancer, including myeloid leukemia. We hypothesized that CpG island hypermethylation also occurs in juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) and investigated whether it is associated with clinical, hematologic, or prognostic features. Based on quantitative measurements of DNA methylation in 127 JMML cases using mass spectrometry (MassARRAY), we identified 4 gene CpG islands with frequent hypermethylation: BMP4 (36% of patients), CALCA (54%), CDKN2B (22%), and RARB (13%). Hypermethylation was significantly associated with poor prognosis: when the methylation data were transformed into prognostic scores using a LASSO Cox regression model, the 5-year overall survival was 0.41 for patients in the top tertile of scores versus 0.72 in the lowest score tertile (P = .002). Among patients given allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, the 5-year cumulative incidence of relapse was 0.52 in the highest versus 0.10 in the lowest score tertile (P = .007). In multivariate models, DNA methylation retained prognostic value independently of other clinical risk factors. Longitudinal analyses indicated that some cases acquired a more extensively methylated phenotype at relapse. In conclusion, our data suggest that a high-methylation phenotype characterizes an aggressive biologic variant of JMML and is an important molecular predictor of outcome.
The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer 58951 trial for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) addressed 3 randomized questions, including the evaluation of dexamethasone (DEX) versus prednisolone (PRED) in induction and, for average-risk patients, the evaluation of vincristine and corticosteroid pulses during continuation therapy. The corticosteroid used in the pulses was that assigned at induction. Overall, 411 patients were randomly assigned: 202 initially randomly assigned to PRED (60 mg/m(2)/d), 201 to DEX (6 mg/m(2)/d), and 8 nonrandomly assigned to PRED. At a median follow-up of 6.3 years, there were 19 versus 34 events for pulses versus no pulses; 6-year disease-free survival (DFS) rate was 90.6% (standard error [SE], 2.1%) and 82.8% (SE, 2.8%), respectively (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.54; 95% confidence interval, 0.31-0.94; P = .027). The effect of pulses was similar in the PRED (HR = 0.56) and DEX groups (HR = 0.59) but more pronounced in girls (HR = 0.24) than in boys (HR = 0.71). Grade 3 to 4 hepatic toxicity was 30% versus 40% in pulses versus no pulses group and grade 2 to 3 osteonecrosis was 4.4% versus 2%. For average-risk patients treated according to Berlin-Frankfurt-Muenster-based protocols, pulses should become a standard component of therapy.
PURPOSE Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is a rare early childhood myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative disorder characterized by an aggressive clinical course. Age and hemoglobin F percentage at diagnosis have been reported to predict both survival and outcome after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). However, no genetic markers with prognostic relevance have been identified so far. We applied gene expression-based classification to JMML samples in order to identify prognostic categories related to clinical outcome. PATIENTS AND METHODS Samples of 44 patients with JMML were available for microarray gene expression analysis. A diagnostic classification (DC) model developed for leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome classification was used to classify the specimens and identify prognostically relevant categories. Statistical analysis was performed to determine the prognostic value of the classification and the genes identifying prognostic categories were further analyzed through R software. RESULTS The samples could be divided into two major groups: 20 specimens were classified as acute myeloid leukemia (AML) -like and 20 samples as nonAML-like. Four patients could not be assigned to a unique class. The 10-year probability of survival after diagnosis of AML-like and nonAML-like patients was significantly different (7% v 74%; P = .0005). Similarly, the 10-year event-free survival after HSCT was 6% for AML-like and 63% for nonAML-like patients (P = .0010). CONCLUSION Gene expression-based classification identifies two groups of patients with JMML with distinct prognosis outperforming all known clinical parameters in terms of prognostic relevance. Gene expression-based classification could thus be prospectively used to guide clinical/therapeutic decisions.
Tumor suppressor genes on the X chromosome may skew the gender distribution of specific types of cancer. T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematological malignancy with an increased incidence in males. In this study, we report the identification of inactivating mutations and deletions in the X-linked plant homeodomain finger 6 (PHF6) gene in 16% of pediatric and 38% of adult primary T-ALL samples. Notably, PHF6 mutations are almost exclusively found in T-ALL samples from male subjects. Mutational loss of PHF6 is importantly associated with leukemias driven by aberrant expression of the homeobox transcription factor oncogenes TLX1 and TLX3. Overall, these results identify PHF6 as a new X-linked tumor suppressor in T-ALL and point to a strong genetic interaction between PHF6 loss and aberrant expression of TLX transcription factors in the pathogenesis of this disease.
We present a patient with thalassemia major who developed a gastric ulcer, probably related to the use of deferasirox. Although gastric ulcer is mentioned as infrequent adverse event in the scientific product information of deferasirox, in our current knowledge, this is the first case-report on this adverse drug reaction. The severity of this event justifies the reporting of this case.
Transplantation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients with grafts from related haploidentical donors has been shown to result in a potent graft-versus-leukemia effect. This effect is mediated by NK cells because of the lack of activation of inhibitory killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) which recognize HLA-Bw4 and HLA-C alleles. However, conflicting results have been reported about the impact of KIR ligand mismatching on the outcome of unrelated HLA-mismatched hematopoietic stem cells transplants (HSCT) to leukemic patients. The interpretation of these conflicting results is hampered by the scant information about the level of expression of HLA class I alleles on leukemic cells, although this variable may affect the activation of inhibitory KIRs. Therefore in the present study, utilizing a large panel of human monoclonal antibodies we have measured the level of expression of HLA-A, -B and -C alleles on 20 B-chronic lymphoid leukemic (B-CLL) cell preparations, on 16 B-acute lymphoid leukemic (B-ALL) cell preparations and on 19 AML cell preparations. Comparison of the level of HLA class I antigen expression on leukemic cells and autologous normal T cells identified selective downregulation of HLA-A and HLA-B alleles on 15 and 14 of the 20 B-CLL, on 2 and 5 of the 16 B-ALL and on 7 and 11 of the 19 AML patients tested, respectively. Most interestingly HLA-C alleles were markedly downregulated on all three types of leukemic cells; the downregulation was most pronounced on AML cells. The potential functional relevance of these abnormalities is suggested by the dose-dependent enhancement of NK cell activation caused by coating the HLA-HLA-Bw4 epitope with monoclonal antibodies on leukemic cells which express NK cell activating ligands. Our results suggest that besides the HLA and KIR genotype, expression levels of KIR ligands on leukemic cells should be included among the criteria used to select the donor-recipient combinations for HSCT.
Somatic mutations of the spliceosomal machinery occur frequently in adult patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). We resequenced SF3B1, U2AF35, and SRSF2 in 371 children with MDS or juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia. We found missense mutations in 2 juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia cases and in 1 child with systemic mastocytosis with MDS. In 1 juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia patient, the SRSF2 mutation that initially coexisted with an oncogenic NRAS mutation was absent at relapse, whereas the NRAS mutation persisted and a second, concomitant NRAS mutation later emerged. The patient with systemic mastocytosis and MDS carried both mutated U2AF35 and KIT in a single clone as confirmed by clonal sequencing. In the adult MDS patients sequenced for control purposes, we detected previously reported mutations in 7/30 and a novel SRSF2 deletion (c.284_307del) in 3 of 30 patients. These findings implicate that spliceosome mutations are rare in pediatric MDS and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia and are unlikely to operate as driver mutations.
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