The identification of molecules involved in tumor initiation and progression is fundamental for understanding disease's biology and, as a consequence, for the clinical management of patients. In the present work we will describe an optimized proteomic approach for the identification of molecules involved in the progression of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). In detail, leukemic cell lysates are resolved by 2-dimensional Electrophoresis (2DE) and visualized as "spots" on the 2DE gels. Comparative analysis of proteomic maps allows the identification of differentially expressed proteins (in terms of abundance and post-translational modifications) that are picked, isolated and identified by Mass Spectrometry (MS). The biological function of the identified candidates can be tested by different assays (i.e. migration, adhesion and F-actin polymerization), that we have optimized for primary leukemic cells.
?ext generation sequencing studies in Homo sapiens have identified novel immunoglobulin heavy variable (IGHV) genes and alleles necessitating changes in the international ImMunoGeneTics information system (IMGT) GENE-DB and reference directories of IMGT/V-QUEST. In chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the somatic hypermutation (SHM) status of the clonotypic rearranged IGHV gene is strongly associated with patient outcome. Correct determination of this parameter strictly depends on the comparison of the nucleotide sequence of the clonotypic rearranged IGHV gene with that of the closest germline counterpart. Consequently, changes in the reference directories could, in principle, affect the correct interpretation of the IGHV mutational status in CLL. To this end, we analyzed 8066 productive IG heavy chain (IGH) rearrangement sequences from our consortium both before and after the latest update of the IMGT/V-QUEST reference directory. Differences were identified in 405 cases (5 % of the cohort). In 291/405 sequences (71.9 %), changes concerned only the IGHV gene or allele name, whereas a change in the percent germline identity (%GI) was noted in 114/405 (28.1 %) sequences; in 50/114 (43.8 %) sequences, changes in the %GI led to a change in the mutational set. In conclusion, recent changes in the IMGT reference directories affected the interpretation of SHM in a sizeable number of IGH rearrangement sequences from CLL patients. This indicates that both physicians and researchers should consider a re-evaluation of IG sequence data, especially for those IGH rearrangement sequences that, up to date, have a GI close to 98 %, where caution is warranted.
A number of single nucleotide polymorphisms have been associated with disease predisposition in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. A single nucleotide polymorphism in the MDM2 promotor region, MDM2SNP309, was shown to soothe the p53 pathway. In the current study, we aimed to clarify the effect of the MDM2SNP309 on chronic lymphocytic leukemia characteristics and outcome. We performed a meta-analysis of data from 2598 individual patients from 10 different cohorts. Patients' data and genetic analysis for MDM2SNP309 genotype, immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region mutation status and fluorescence in situ hybridization results were collected. There were no differences in overall survival based on the polymorphism (log rank test, stratified by study cohort; P=0.76; GG genotype: cohort-adjusted median overall survival of 151 months; TG: 153 months; TT: 149 months). In a multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analysis, advanced age, male sex and unmutated immunoglobulin heavy chain variable region genes were associated with inferior survival, but not the MDM2 genotype. The MDM2SNP309 is unlikely to influence disease characteristics and prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Studies investigating the impact of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms on prognosis are often controversial. This may be due to selection bias and small sample size. A meta-analysis based on individual patient data provides a reasonable strategy for prognostic factor analyses in the case of small individual studies. Individual patient data-based meta-analysis can, therefore, be a powerful tool to assess genetic risk factors in the absence of large studies.
Over the last decade, immunogenetic analysis of B-cell receptor immunoglobulins (BcR IG) has proved instrumental in dissecting chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) pathogenesis. Initially, it was the finding that the level of somatic hypermutations in rearranged IG heavy-chain genes could define two CLL subtypes associated with a different clinical course that drew attention. As the years ensued, this not only continued to hold strong, but also revealed an unprecedented BcR restriction (aptly coined as "stereotypy"), thus cementing the idea that antigenic elements select the leukemic clones. With all this in mind, in the present review, we focus on the CLL BcR IG, a molecule that clearly lies at the heart of disease pathogenesis, and attempt to distil from past and emerging biologic knowledge the most relevant aspects in the context of the immunogenetics of CLL, while at the same time provoking questions that remain unanswered. We juxtapose CLL with mutated BcR IGs against CLL with unmutated BcR IGs due to their striking clinicobiologic differences; however, when considering ontogeny, common derivation of the two mutational subtypes cannot be excluded. The issue of stereotypy is intertwined throughout and we also raise the subject of isotype-switched CLL, which, despite its rarity, contributes intriguing ontogenetic hints.
Mouse models that recapitulate human malignancy are valuable tools for the elucidation of the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms and for preclinical studies. Several genetically engineered mouse models have been generated, either mimicking genetic aberrations or deregulated gene expression in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The usefulness of such models in the study of the human disease may potentially be hampered by species-specific biological differences in the target cell of the oncogenic transformation. Specifically, do the genetic lesions or the deregulated expression of leukemia-associated genes faithfully recapitulate the spectrum of lymphoproliferations in humans? Do the CLL-like lymphoproliferations in the mouse have the phenotypic, histological, genetic, and clinical features of the human disease? Here we compare the various CLL mouse models with regard to disease phenotype, penetrance, and severity. We discuss similarities and differences of the murine lymphoproliferations compared with human CLL. We propose that the E?-TCL1 transgenic and 13q14-deletion models that have been comprehensively studied at the levels of leukemia phenotype, antigen-receptor repertoire, and disease course show close resemblance to the human disease. We conclude that modeling CLL-associated genetic dysregulations in mice can provide important insights into the molecular mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and generate valuable tools for the development of novel therapies.
In the last decade, the management of chronic lymphocytic leukemia has undergone profound changes that have been driven by an improved understanding of the biology of the disease and the approval of several new drugs. Moreover, many novel drugs are currently under evaluation for rapid approval or have been approved by regulatory agencies, further broadening the available therapeutic armamentarium for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The use of novel biological and genetic parameters combined with a careful clinical evaluation allows us to dissect some of the heterogeneity of the disease and to distinguish patients with a very mild onset and course, who often will not need any treatment, from those with an intermediate prognosis and a third group with a very aggressive course (high-risk leukemia). On this background, it becomes increasingly challenging to select the right treatment strategy. In this paper, we describe our own approach to the management of different patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
The sialic-acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectin SIGLEC-G is a negative regulator of B-cell receptor-mediated calcium signaling. Its deficiency leads to reduced turnover and increased proliferation and survival of murine B-1a cells. Siglecg(-/-) mice show a premature expansion of polyclonal CD5(+) B cells in the spleen and the peritoneal cavity. Here we studied the fate of B lymphocytes in Siglecg(-/-) mice over time. We demonstrate that in aging animals SIGLEC-G deficiency promotes progressive accumulation of monoclonal B lymphocytes and increases the susceptibility to develop B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Lymphoid tumors arising in aged Siglecg(-/-) mice are monoclonal and histologically heterogeneous as they include diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, and medium-to-large B-cell monomorphic lymphoma but surprisingly not chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The tumors express high levels of BCL-2 and are transplantable. In keeping with these findings we have also observed a remarkable down-regulation of the human ortholog SIGLEC10 in human B-cell lymphoma and leukemia cell lines. Taken together, these observations indicate that the down-regulation of negative B-cell receptor regulators such as SIGLEC-G/SIGLEC10 may represent another mechanism relevant to the pathogenesis of B-cell lymphomas.
We recently reported that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) subgroups with distinct clonotypic BCRs present discrete patterns of TLR expression, function, and/or tolerance. In this study, to explore whether specific types of BCR/TLR collaboration exist in CLL, we studied the effect of single versus concomitant BCR and/or TLR stimulation on CLL cells from mutated (M-CLL) and unmutated CLL (U-CLL) cases. We stimulated negatively isolated CLL cells by using anti-IgM, imiquimod, and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide for BCR, TLR7, and TLR9, respectively, alone or in combination for different time points. After in vitro culture in the absence of stimulation, differences in p-ERK were identified at any time point, with higher p-ERK levels in U-CLL versus M-CLL. Pronounced p-ERK induction was seen by single stimulation in U-CLL, whereas BCR/TLR synergism was required in M-CLL, in which the effect was overall limited in scale. An opposite pattern was observed regarding induction of apoptosis, as studied by Western blotting for the cleaved fragment of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and the active isoform of caspase-8, with M-CLL responding even to single stimulation, contrasting with U-CLL that showed minimal response. Our findings suggest that concomitant engagement of BCR and TLR leads to differential responses in CLL depending on the mutational status of the BCR. Differential intensity and duration of responses in M-CLL versus U-CLL indicates that the differences in signal transduction between the two subgroups may be primarily quantitative rather than qualitative.
Patients with relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) who have clinically significant coexisting medical conditions are less able to undergo standard chemotherapy. Effective therapies with acceptable side-effect profiles are needed for this patient population.
In lymphomas, it is increasingly apparent that the microenvironment is an essential player not only for lymphoma pathogenesis but also for disease progression and therapy resistance. In recent years, we have begun to understand the complex crosstalk between the neoplastic cells and other immune cells, such as T and NK cells, and stromal cells, as well as the signaling pathways that become aberrantly activated through this dialogue (e.g. B-cell receptor, Toll-like receptor and NF-?B signaling). In this series of reviews, the intricate interplay between lymphoma cells and by-stander cells will be illustrated in representative lymphoma entities, namely Hodgkin lymphomas, follicular lymphomas, marginal-zone lymphomas, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and T-cell lymphomas, where the crucial role played by the microenvironment has become particularly evident. Furthermore, important clues to the pathobiology of lymphomas have emerged from (i) the recognition of pre-malignant conditions, such as monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis or in situ lymphomas, (ii) the identification of microbial and/or auto-antigens that are linked to particular entities, as well as (iii) the established increased risk of lymphomas in certain autoimmune/inflammatory conditions, all critical aspects that will be further elaborated in this thematic issue. Our increasing knowledge of these interactions and associations has finally allowed us to design targeted or immune-mediated strategies to interfere with the lymphoma microenvironment, thereby opening promising therapeutic avenues on the road to cure for these yet incurable diseases.
Circulating monoclonal B cells may be detected in healthy adults, a condition called monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). MBL has also been identified in donated blood, but no systematic study of blood donors has been reported. Using sensitive and specific laboratory methods, we detected MBL in 149 (7.1%; 95% CI, 6.0%-8.3%) of 2098 unique donors ages 45 years or older in a Midwestern U.S. regional blood center between 2010 and 2011. Most of the 149 donors had low-count MBL, including 99 CLL-like (66.4%), 22 atypical (14.8%), and 19 CD5- (12.8%) immunophenotypes. However, five donors (3.4%) had B-cell clonal counts above 500 cells/µl, including three with 1693-2887 cells/µl; the clone accounted for nearly all their circulating B-cells. Four donors (2.7%) had two distinct MBL clones. Of 51 MBL samples in which IGHV-D-J genotypes could be determined, 71% and 29% used IGHV3- and IGHV4-family genes, respectively. Sequencing revealed 82% with somatic hypermutation, while 18% had greater than 98% germ-line identity, including five with entirely germ-line sequences. In conclusion, MBL prevalence is much higher in blood donors than previously reported and, although uncommon, the presence of high-count MBL warrants further investigations to define the biological fate of the transfused cells in recipients.
IgG-switched chronic lymphocytic leukemia (G-CLL) is a rare variant of CLL, whose origin and ontogenetic relationship to the common IgM/IgD (MD-CLL) variant remains undefined. Here we sought for clues regarding the ontogeny of G-CLL versus MD-CLL by profiling the relevant IG gene repertoires.
The BCL2 family members play a central role in regulating programmed cell death (apoptosis) and arbitrating the cellular fate through an accurate balance between pro-apoptotic (BAX, BAK, and BH3-only proteins) and pro-survival (BCL2 and its closest homologues, BCLXL, BCLW and MCL-1) factors. Deregulation of BCL2 family proteins contributes to programmed cell death evasion, that is a hallmark of human cancers and it is often related to (chemo)therapy resistance. High BCL2 levels have been detected in most human lymphoid malignancies, not limited to follicular lymphoma (where the role of BCL2 overexpression is driven by the t[14;18] translocation) but also B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and multiple myeloma. For all these reasons, the opportunity to induce apoptosis by targeting BCL2 proteins is considered a potentially promising therapeutic approach in hematological malignancies. BCL2 family inhibition strategies currently explored in phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials are essentially two: (1) the use of antisense-based strategies to knockdown BCL2 or BCLXL expression (e.g. oblimersen) or (2) the use of synthetic BH3 mimetics i.e. small molecules binding to anti-apoptotic inhibitors thereby allowing the pro-apoptotic activity of BH3-only molecules (e.g. obatoclax, AT-101, ABT-737 and its derivatives ABT-263 and ABT-199). Several of these drugs demonstrated relevant clinical activity as single-agent or in combination therapy, with the most significant drawbacks in clinical use being represented by challenging pharmacokinetic profile (e.g. iv administration, high-levels of plasma proteins binding) and on-target side effects (e.g. gastrointestinal toxicity and thrombocytopenia). Further clinical development of the current compounds (e.g. ABT-199), showing high efficacy but devoid of the most threatening drug-related toxicities, is eagerly awaited. Hopefully, in the next future, BCL2 inhibitors (alone or in combination with immuno- and/or chemo-therapeutic agents) will represent target-specific drugs expanding our therapeutic armamentarium in the fight against hematologic malignancies.
While signaling through the B cell receptor (BcR) facilitates B cell development and maintenance, it also carries intertwined risks for the development of lymphomas since malignant B cells can exploit these pathways in order to trigger and fuel clonal expansion. This corruption of the normal B cell response to antigens, leading to sustained BcR signaling, has given great impulse to investigate in detail the role of antigen in lymphomas. Suffice it to conclude from such studies, largely immunogenetics based, that the evidence implicating antigens (exogenous or self) in lymphoma development is substantial and that lymphomagenesis is functionally driven and dynamic, rather than a simple stochastic process. As the paradigm of antigen-driven lymphoma evolves, further investigation will be paramount to the identification of the inciting agent(s) that may be responsible for immunoproliferative neoplasms and also for the development of therapeutic agents targeting effectors of the BcR signaling pathway.
The finding of monoclonal B-cell populations not fulfilling criteria for a lymphoid malignancy has given great impulse to study mechanisms involved in lymphomagenesis and factors responsible for the transition from B-cell precursor states to overt lymphoproliferative disorders. Monoclonal B cell expansions were initially recognized in peripheral blood of otherwise healthy subjects (thus defined monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis, MBL) and in most cases share the immunophenotypic profile of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The clinical relevance of this phenomenon is different according to B-cell count: high-count MBL is considered a preneoplastic condition and progresses to CLL requiring treatment at a rate of 1-2% per year, while low-count MBL, though persisting over time, has not shown a clinical correlation with frank leukemia so far. MBL other than CLL-like represent a minority of cases and are ill-defined entities for which clinical and biological information is still scanty. In situ follicular lymphoma (FL) and mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) are characterized by the localization of atypical lymphoid cells, carrying t(14;18)(q32;q21) or t(11;14)(q13;q32), only in the germinal centers and mantle zones respectively, where their normal counterparts are localized. The localization of these cells indicates that germinal centers or mantle zones provide appropriate microenvironments for cells carrying these oncogenic alterations to survive or proliferate. The progression of these lesions to overt lymphomas occurs rarely and may require the accumulation of additional genetic events. Individuals with these lymphoid proliferations should be managed with caution.
In recent years, the role played by the stromal microenvironment has been given growing attention in order to achieve a full understanding of cancer initiation and progression. Because cancer is a tissue-based disease, the integrity of tissue architecture is a major constraint toward cancer growth. Indeed, a large contribution of the natural resistance to cancer stems from stromal microenvironment components, the dysregulation of which can facilitate cancer occurrence. For instance, recent experimental evidence has highlighted the involvement of stromal cells in ovarian carcinogenesis, as epitomized by ovarian xenografts obtained by a double KO of the murine Dicer and Pten genes. Likewise, we reported the role of an ancient extracellular RNase, called Ribonuclease T2 (RNASET2), within the ovarian stromal microenvironment. Indeed, hyperexpression of RNASET2 is able to control tumorigenesis by recruiting macrophages (mostly of the anticancer M1 subtype) at the tumor sites. We present biological data obtained by RNASET2 silencing in the poorly tumorigenetic and highly RNASET2-expressing human OVCAR3 cell line. RNASET2 knockdown was shown to stimulate in vivo tumor growth early after microinjection of OVCAR3 cells in nude mice. Moreover, we have investigated by molecular profiling the in vivo expression signature of human and mouse cell xenografts and disclosed the activation of pathways related to activation of the innate immune response and modulation of ECM components. Finally, we provide evidence for a role of RNASET2 in triggering an in vitro chemotactic response in macrophages. These results further highlight the critical role played by the microenvironment in RNASET2-mediated ovarian tumor suppression, which could eventually contribute to better clarify the pathogenesis of this disease.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) -like monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) shares common immunophenotype and cytogenetic abnormalities with CLL, from which it is discriminated by a cutoff value of 5 × 10(9)/L circulating clonal B cells. However, the clonal size in MBL is extremely variable and allows discrimination of two distinct entities (high-count [HC] and low-count [LC]-MBL) based on a cutoff value of 0.5 × 10(9)/L clonal B cells. HC-MBL is associated with lymphocytosis and progresses to CLL requiring treatment at a rate of 1.1% per year, whereas LC-MBL is found in the general population only through high-sensitivity techniques and carries limited, if any, risk of progression. We performed an immunogenetic profiling of 333 cases with CLL-like MBL supplemented by detailed comparisons with CLL, focusing especially on CLL Rai stage 0 (CLL-0). LC- and HC-MBL had similar somatic hypermutation status, yet different IGHV gene repertoires and frequencies of B-cell receptor (BcR) stereotypy. In particular, stereotyped BcRs were infrequent in LC-MBL and were often not CLL specific. In contrast, HC-MBL exhibited clear immunogenetic similarities to CLL-0. These findings indicate that LC-MBL may not represent a true preleukemic condition, thus differing from HC-MBL/CLL-0 in which the identification of factors endowing malignant potential is strongly warranted.
Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is defined as a clonal B-cell expansion whereby the B-cell count is less than 5 × 10(9)/L and no symptoms or signs of lymphoproliferative disorders are detected. Based on B-cell count, MBL is further divided into low-count and clinical MBL. While low-count MBL seems to carry relevance mostly from an immunological perspective, clinical MBL and chronic lymphocytic leukemia appear to be overlapping entities. Only a deeper knowledge of molecular pathways and microenvironmental influences involved in disease evolution will help to solve the main clinical issue, i.e. how to differentiate nonprogressive and progressive cases requiring intensive follow-up.
B-cell receptor (BCR) triggering and responsiveness have a crucial role in the survival and expansion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) clones. Analysis of in vitro response of CLL cells to BCR triggering allowed the definition of 2 main subsets of patients and lack of signaling capacity was associated with constitutive activation of extracellular-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) and nuclear factor of activated T cells c1 (NF-ATc1), consistent with the idea that at least one group of CLL patients derives from the abnormal expansion of anergic B cells. In the present work, we further investigated the anergic subset of CLL (defined as the one with constitutive ERK1/2 phosphorylation) and found that it is characterized by low levels of surface immunoglobulin M and impairment of calcium mobilization after BCR engagement in vitro. Chronic BCR triggering promoted CLL cell survival selectively in phosphorylated ERK1/2 samples and the use of mitogen-activated protein kinase and NF-AT signaling inhibitors specifically induced apoptosis in this group of patients. Apoptosis induction was preceded by an initial phase of anergy reversal consisting in the loss of ERK phosphorylation and NF-AT nuclear translocation and by the restoration of BCR responsiveness, reinforcing the idea that the anergic program favors the survival of leukemic lymphocytes.
HS1 (hematopoietic cell-specific Lyn substrate-1) is a cytoskeletal interactor in the B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway whose phosphorylation correlates with prognosis in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). The differentially phosphorylated sites and the kinases that regulate HS1 activity in CLL remain poorly understood. We demonstrate that HS1 activity is differentially regulated by LYN kinase that, in a subset of patients, phosphorylates HS1 on Tyrosine (Y)397, resulting in its activation. This correlates with increased cytoskeletal functionality in terms of migration, adhesion and F-actin polymerization. In these patients, LYN is also activated on Y396 residue and its inhibition with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor Dasatinib abrogates HS1-Y397 phosphorylation. This results in the reduction of HS1 activation along with that of cytoskeletal effector VAV1 and the downstream kinase ERK also in the presence of BCR and CXC chemokine receptor CXCR4 stimulation. Interestingly, targeting the LYN/HS1 axis in vitro leads to the concomitant reduction of cytoskeletal activity, BCR signaling and cell survival in the subset of patients with activated LYN/HS1. In a transplantable mouse model based on the E?TCL1 transgenic mouse, LYN/HS1 signaling inhibition interferes with CLL progression and lymphoid organ infiltration. Thus LYN/HS1 axis marks distinct signaling profiles and cytoskeletal-related features that may represent valuable targets for cytoskeleton-targeted therapeutic intervention in CLL.
Critical processes of B-cell physiology, including immune signaling through the B-cell receptor (BcR) and/or Toll-like receptors (TLRs), are targeted by microRNAs. With this in mind and also given the important role of BcR and TLR signaling and microRNAs in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), we investigated whether microRNAs could be implicated in shaping the behavior of CLL clones with distinct BcR and TLR molecular and functional profiles. To this end, we examined 79 CLL cases for the expression of 33 microRNAs, selected on the following criteria: (a) deregulated in CLL versus normal B-cells; (b) differentially expressed in CLL subgroups with distinct clinicobiological features; and, (c) if meeting (a) + (b), having predicted targets in the immune signaling pathways. Significant upregulation of miR-150, miR-29c, miR-143 and miR-223 and downregulation of miR-15a was found in mutated versus unmutated CLL, with miR-15a showing the highest fold difference. Comparison of two major subsets with distinct stereotyped BcRs and signaling signatures, namely subset 1 [IGHV1/5/7-IGKV1(D)-39, unmutated, bad prognosis] versus subset 4 [IGHV4-34/IGKV2-30, mutated, good prognosis] revealed differences in the expression of miR-150, miR-29b, miR-29c and miR-101, all down-regulated in subset 1. We were also able to link these distinct microRNA profiles with cellular phenotypes, importantly showing that, in subset 1, miR-101 downregulation is associated with overexpression of the enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) protein, which has been associated with clinical aggressiveness in other B-cell lymphomas. In conclusion, specific miRNAs differentially expressed among CLL subgroups with distinct BcR and/or TLR signaling may modulate the biological and clinical behavior of the CLL clones.
Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is classified as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)-like, atypical CLL, and CD5(-) MBL. The number of B cells per microliter divides CLL-like MBL into MBL associated with lymphocytosis (usually detected in a clinical setting) and low-count MBL detected in the general population (usually identified during population screening). After a median follow-up of 34 months we reevaluated 76 low-count MBLs with 5-color flow cytometry: 90% of CLL-like MBL but only 44.4% atypical CLL and 66.7% CD5(-) MBL persisted over time. Population-screening CLL-like MBL had no relevant cell count change, and none developed an overt leukemia. In 50% of the cases FISH showed CLL-related chromosomal abnormalities, including monoallelic or biallelic 13q deletions (43.8%), trisomy 12 (1 case), and 17p deletions (2 cases). The analysis of the T-cell receptor ? (TRBV) chains repertoire showed the presence of monoclonal T-cell clones, especially among CD4(high)CD8(low), CD8(high)CD4(low) T cells. TRBV2 and TRBV8 were the most frequently expressed genes. This study indicates that (1) the risk of progression into CLL for low-count population-screening CLL-like MBL is exceedingly rare and definitely lower than that of clinical MBL and (2) chromosomal abnormalities occur early in the natural history and are possibly associated with the appearance of the typical phenotype.
We examined 807 productive IGHV-IGHD-IGHJ gene rearrangements from mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) cases, by far the largest series to date. The IGHV gene repertoire was remarkably biased, with IGHV3-21, IGHV4-34, IGHV1-8, and IGHV3-23 accounting for 46.3% of the cohort. Eighty-four of 807 (10.4%) cases, mainly using the IGHV3-21 and IGHV4-34 genes, were found to bear stereotyped heavy complementarity-determining region 3 (VH CDR3) sequences and were placed in 38 clusters. Notably, the MCL stereotypes were distinct from those reported for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Based on somatic hypermutation (SHM) status, 238/807 sequences (29.5%) carried IGHV genes with 100% germ line identity; the remainder (569/807; 70.5%) exhibited different SHM impact, ranging from minimal (in most cases) to pronounced. Shared replacement mutations across the IGHV gene were identified for certain subgroups, especially those using IGHV3-21, IGHV1-8, and IGHV3-23. Comparison with other entities, in particular CLL, revealed that several of these mutations were "MCL-biased." In conclusion, MCL is characterized by a highly restricted immunoglobulin gene repertoire with stereotyped VH CDR3s and very precise SHM targeting, strongly implying a role for antigen-driven selection of the clonogenic progenitors. Hence, an antigen-driven origin of MCL could be envisaged, at least for subsets of cases.
Signaling through the B-cell receptor appears to be a major contributor to the pathogenesis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Toll-like receptors bridge the innate and adaptive immune responses by acting as co-stimulatory signals for B cells. The available data on the expression of Toll-like receptors in chronic lymphocytic leukemia are limited and derive from small series of patients.
Inflammation is involved in the initiation and progression of several chronic lymphoid malignancies of B-cell type. Toll-like receptors (TLR) are transmembrane inflammatory receptors that on recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns trigger an innate immune response and bridge the innate and adaptive immune response by acting as costimulatory signals for B cells. Fine tuning of TLR and IL-1R-like (ILR) activity is regulated by TIR8 (SIGIRR), a transmembrane receptor of the TLR/ILR family which inhibits other family members. To test the hypothesis that TLR and/or ILR may play a role in the natural history of chronic B-cell tumors, we crossed E?-TCL1 transgenic mice, a well established model of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), with mice lacking the inhibitory receptor TIR8 that allow an unabated TLR-mediated stimulation. We here report that in the absence of TIR8 the appearance of monoclonal B-cell expansions is accelerated and mouse life span is shortened. The morphology and phenotype of the mouse leukemic expansions reproduce the progression of human CLL into an aggressive and frequently terminal phase characterized by the appearance of prolymphocytes. This study reveals an important pathogenetic implication of TLR in CLL development and progression.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by an accumulation of mature CD19(+)CD5(+)CD20(dim) B lymphocytes that typically express the B-cell activation marker CD23. In the present study, we cloned and expressed in T lymphocytes a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting the CD23 antigen (CD23.CAR). CD23.CAR(+) T cells showed specific cytotoxic activity against CD23(+) tumor cell lines (average lysis 42%) and primary CD23(+) CLL cells (average lysis 58%). This effect was obtained without significant toxicity against normal B lymphocytes, in contrast to CARs targeting CD19 or CD20 antigens, which are also expressed physiologically by normal B lymphocytes. Moreover, CLL-derived CD23.CAR(+) T cells released inflammatory cytokines (1445-fold more TNF-?, 20-fold more TNF-?, and 4-fold more IFN-?). IL-2 was also produced (average release 2681 pg/mL) and sustained the antigen-dependent proliferation of CD23.CAR(+) T cells. Redirected T cells were also effective in vivo in a CLL Rag2(-/-)?(c)(-/-) xenograft mouse model. Compared with mice treated with control T cells, the infusion of CD23.CAR(+) T cells resulted in a significant delay in the growth of the MEC-1 CLL cell line. These data suggest that CD23.CAR(+) T cells represent a selective immunotherapy for the elimination of CD23(+) leukemic cells in patients with CLL.
A recent body of evidence indicates an active role for stromal (mis)-regulation in the progression of neoplasias. Within this conceptual framework, genes belonging to the growing but still poorly characterized class of tumor antagonizing/malignancy suppressor genes (TAG/MSG) seem to play a crucial role in the regulation of the cross-talk between stromal and epithelial cells by controlling malignant growth in vivo without affecting any cancer-related phenotype in vitro. Here, we have functionally characterized the human RNASET2 gene, which encodes the first human member of the widespread Rh/T2/S family of extracellular RNases and was recently found to be down-regulated at the transcript level in several primary ovarian tumors or cell lines and in melanoma cell lines. Although we could not detect any activity for RNASET2 in several functional in vitro assays, a remarkable control of ovarian tumorigenesis could be detected in vivo. Moreover, the control of ovarian tumorigenesis mediated by this unique tumor suppressor gene occurs through modification of the cellular microenvironment and the induction of immunocompetent cells of the monocyte/macrophage lineage. Taken together, the data presented in this work strongly indicate RNASET2 as a previously unexplored member of the growing family of tumor-antagonizing genes.
Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is detectable in > 3% of the general population. Recent data are compatible, at least in a proportion of cases, with MBL being a progenitor lesion for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and a surrogate for inherited predisposition. Common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at 2q13 (rs17483466), 2q37.1 (rs13397985), 2q37.3 (rs757978), 6p25.3 (rs872071), 8q24.21 (rs2456449), 11q24.1 (rs735665), 15q21.3 (rs7169431), 15q23 (rs7176508), 16q24.1 (rs305061), and 19q13.32 (rs11083846) have been shown to confer a modest but significant increase in CLL risk. To examine the impact of these 10 SNPs on MBL, we analyzed 3 case-control series totaling 419 cases and 1753 controls. An association between genotype and MBL risk was seen for 9 SNPs, 6 of which were statistically significant: rs17483466 (odds ratio [OR] =1.27; P = .02), rs13397985 (OR = 1.40; P = 1.72 × 10(-3)), rs757978 (OR = 1.38; P = .02), rs872071 (OR = 1.27; P = 7.75 × 10(-3)), rs2456449 (OR = 1.31; P = 3.14 × 10(-3)), and rs735665 (OR = 1.63; P = 6.86 × 10(-6)). Collectively, these data provide support for genetic variation influencing CLL risk through predisposition to MBL.
Monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is a preclinical condition characterized by an expansion of clonal B cells in the absence of B lymphocytosis (BALC < 5 × 10(9)/L) in the peripheral blood, without clinical signs, suggestive of a lymphoproliferative disorder. B cell clonal expansions are also associated with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and they can evolve into lymphoproliferative disorders such as mixed cryoglobulinemia and non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL). The relationship between MBL and HCV infection has not been established yet.
Monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is now recognized as the B-lymphocyte analogue of a monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance. MBL can be the precursor of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It may be associated with an autoimmune abnormality or be related to aging (immunosenescence). The combination of available new fluorochrome-conjugated monoclonal antibody reagents, multilaser instrumentation, and improved software tools have led to a new level of multicolor analysis of MBL. Presently, several centers, including the University of Salamanca (Spain), Duke University (Durham, NC), Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN), and the National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD) in conjunction with the Genetics and Epidemiology of Familial chronic lymphocytic leukemia Consortium, the Food and Drug Administration (Bethesda, MD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (Atlanta, GA) in collaboration with Saint Lukes Hospital (Kansas City, MO), the Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan (Italy), and Leeds Teaching Hospital (UK) are all actively conducting studies on MBL. This commentary is an updated summary of the current methods used in these centers. It is important to note the diversity of use in reagents, instruments, and methods of analysis. Despite this diversity, there is a consensus in what constitutes the diagnosis of MBL and its subtypes. There is also an emerging consensus on what the next investigative steps should be.
The biological and clinical relationship between Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) and Monoclonal B-cell Lymphocytosis (MBL) has now been reported in some detail. This review investigates associations between biology and disease activity as they relate to the absolute numbers of abnormal cells. The clonal B-cells in CLL-type MBL are indistinguishable from CLL with respect to surface phenotype and the presence of chromosomal abnormalities. However, the majority of CLL-type MBL cases in the general population have very low numbers of clonal B-cells, typically in the range 0.1-10 per ?L, and such cases use different IGHV genes than higher-count CLL-type MBL cases and often show intraclonal heterogeneity. Cases with higher counts are biologically similar to CLL although there is a relationship between the CLL cell count at presentation and the likelihood of further clonal expansion. Individuals presenting with CLL cell counts above 2,000 per ?L are more likely to have gradually increasing B-cell counts over time and although the risk of requiring treatment for progressive CLL remains low there may be impaired normal B-cell activity.
CLL-like monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) shares a unique immunophenotype with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and represents the vast majority of clonal B-cell expansions found in the peripheral blood of otherwise healthy subjects. Along with the improvement of laboratory techniques and the widespread availability of multiparameter flow cytometry, the finding of tiny aberrant B-cell populations became more frequent, prompting the need for clinical and biological definition of the nature of this condition and its relationship with leukemia development. MBL seems to be a melting-pot containing several entities, identical in terms of phenotype but with extremely different risks of leukemia development (from low to none) that seem to correlate with the number of B lymphocytes. CLL-like MBL observed in the clinical setting ("Clinical MBL"), usually being characterized by lymphocytosis, demonstrated a sizeable, even if low (1.1-1.4% per year), risk of leukemic progression, but represents a minority of all MBL cases. The vast majority of CLL-like MBL are detected in general population screenings and do not likely have a risk of CLL that is substantially higher than that of unaffected individuals. Interestingly, MBL frequency increases with age, being virtually undetectable under 40 years of age but being present in 50-75% of the people older than 90 years. It has been proposed that MBL could be interpreted as an epiphenomenon of a chronic and persistent antigenic stimulation. The (rare) possibility to evolve into a frank leukemia might then depend on biological and molecular factors insofar unknown that may modify the modality of cell reaction as well as the potential to acquire further genetic abnormalities. Therefore, the real challenge of the next years in the MBL research field is not to increase the sensitivity of detection, neither to implement screening protocols to be applied to the general population, rather to unravel the biologic features that, at individual level, will identify those (few) cases that are at risk of developing a progressive disease.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by the accumulation in primary and secondary lymphoid tissues of CD5+ B cells that have the same B cell receptor (BCR) rearrangement. Genetic alterations and different stimuli originating from the microenvironment cooperate in the selection and expansion of the malignant clone. Molecular and functional analyses suggest that stimulation through the BCR affects the destiny of leukemic cells in terms of life or death. Microenvironmental signals are crucial for this process, inducing proliferation and leading to the survival and accumulation of leukemic cells within lymphoid organs. Nevertheless, a number of major biological issues still remain to be solved, including the relationships between cell proliferation and cell accumulation within lymphoid organs as well as the mechanisms that regulate CLL cell migration and recirculation between peripheral blood and lymphoid tissues. We focused on the role played by the cytoskeleton, given its relevance in controlling cellular shape, mobility, and homing. We hypothesize that hematopoietic cell-specific Lyn substrate 1 (HS1), a putative prognostic marker in CLL that interacts with distinct cytoskeleton adapters in leukemic B-lymphocytes, could regulate the CLL cell cytoskeleton.
Autoimmune cytopenias (AIC) are frequent in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients, but risk factors and prognostic relevance of these events are controversial. Data about the influence on AIC of biological prognostic markers, as ZAP-70, are scanty. We retrospectively evaluated AIC in 290 CLL patients tested for ZAP-70 expression by immunohistochemistry on bone marrow biopsy at presentation. They were 185 men, median age 63 years, 77.9% Binet stage A, 17.6% B and 4.5% C. AIC occurred in 46 patients (16%): 31 autoimmune hemolytic anemias, 10 autoimmune thrombocytopenias, four Evans syndromes, and one pure red cell aplasia. Of the 46 cases of AIC, 37 (80%) occurred in ZAP-70 positive patients and nine (20%) in ZAP-70 negatives. ZAP-70 expression [Hazard Ratio (HR) = 7.42; 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.49-22.05] and age >65 years (HR = 5.41; 95% CI: 1.67-17.49) resulted independent risk factors for AIC. Among the 136 patients evaluated both for ZAP-70 expression and IGHV status, the occurrence of AIC was higher in ZAP-70 positive/IGHV unmutated cases (35%) than in patients ZAP-70 negative/IGHV mutated (6%) or discordant for the two parameters (4%; P < 0.0001). In ZAP-70 positive patients, occurrence of AIC negatively influenced survival (HR = 1.75; 95% CI: 1.06-2.86). The high risk of developing AIC in ZAP-70 positive CLL, particularly when IGHV unmutated, should be considered in the clinical management.
The function of the intracellular protein hematopoietic cell-specific Lyn substrate-1 (HS1) in B lymphocytes is poorly defined. To investigate its role in migration, trafficking, and homing of leukemic B lymphocytes we have used B cells from HS1(-/-) mice, the HS1-silenced human chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) MEC1 cell line and primary leukemic B cells from patients with CLL. We have used both in vitro and in vivo models and found that the lack of expression of HS1 causes several important functional effects. In vitro, we observed an impaired cytoskeletal remodeling that resulted in diminished cell migration, abnormal cell adhesion, and increased homotypic aggregation. In vivo, immunodeficient Rag2(-/-)?(c)(-/-) mice injected with HS1-silenced CLL B cells showed a decreased organ infiltration with the notable exception of the bone marrow (BM). The leukemic-prone E?-TCL1 transgenic mice crossed with HS1-deficient mice were compared with E?-TCL1 mice and showed an earlier disease onset and a reduced survival. These findings show that HS1 is a central regulator of cytoskeleton remodeling that controls lymphocyte trafficking and homing and significantly influences the tissue invasion and infiltration in CLL.
We investigated functional relationships between microRNA 221/222 (miR-221/222) cluster and p27, a key regulator of cell cycle, in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The enforced expression of miR-221/222 in the CLL cell line MEC1 induced a significant down-regulation of p27 protein and conferred a proliferative advantage to the transduced cells that exhibited faster progression into the S phase of the cell cycle. Accordingly, expression of miR-221/miR-222 and p27 was found to be inversely related in leukemic cells obtained from peripheral blood (PB) of 38 patients with CLL. Interestingly, when miR-221/222 and p27 protein were evaluated in different anatomic compartments (lymph nodes or bone marrow) of the same patients, increased expression of the 2 miRNAs became apparent compared with PB. This finding was paralleled by a low expression of p27. In addition, when CLL cells were induced in vitro to enter cell cycle (eg, with cytosine phosphate guanine oligodeoxynucleotide), a significant increase of miR-221/222 expression and a marked down-regulation of p27 protein were evident. These data indicate that the miR-221/222 cluster modulates the expression of p27 protein in CLL cells and lead to suggest that miR-221/222 and p27 may represent a regulatory loop that helps maintaining CLL cells in a resting condition.
Easily reproducible animal models that allow for study of the biology of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and to test new therapeutic agents have been very difficult to establish. We have developed a novel transplantable xenograft murine model of CLL by engrafting the CLL cell line MEC1 into Rag2(-/-)gamma(c)(-/-) mice. These mice lack B, T, and natural killer (NK) cells, and, in contrast to nude mice that retain NK cells, appear to be optimal recipient for MEC1 cells, which were successfully transplanted through either subcutaneous or intravenous routes. The result is a novel in vivo model that has systemic involvement, develops very rapidly, allows the measurement of tumor burden, and has 100% engraftment efficiency. This model closely resembles aggressive human CLL and could be very useful for evaluating both the biologic basis of CLL growth and dissemination as well as the efficacy of new therapeutic agents.
Immune-related deficiencies are well-known complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Although recent data indicate that almost all CLL patients are preceded by a monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis precursor state, patterns of immune defects preceding CLL diagnosis are unclear. We identified 109 persons who developed CLL from the prospective and nationwide Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial with 77 469 participants, with serially collected prediagnostic serum samples. We assayed monoclonal (M)-proteins, kappa/lambda free light chains (FLCs) in prediagnostic obtained up to 9.8 years before CLL diagnosis. The prevalence of an abnormal FLC ratio, M-protein, and hypogamma-globulinemia before CLL diagnosis was 38% (95% confidence interval, 29%-47%), 13% (7%-21%), and 3% (1%-8%), respectively. M-proteins and abnormal FLC ratios were detected up to 9.8 years before CLL diagnosis in a total of 48 persons (44%). Hypogammaglobulinemia was not present until 3 years before the diagnosis of CLL. Among 37 patients with information on tumor cell immunophenotype, an association between immunophenotype and involved FLC (P = .024, Fisher exact test) was observed. Among 61 persons with a normal FLC ratio and without an M-protein, 17 had elevated kappa and/or lambda FLC levels, indicating polyclonal B-cell activation in 17 of 109 (16%) patients. These findings support a role for chronic immune stimulation in CLL genesis.
Despite major therapeutic advances, most mature B-cell malignancies remain incurable. Compelling evidence suggests that crosstalk with accessory stromal cells in specialized tissue microenvironments, such as the bone marrow and secondary lymphoid organs, favors disease progression by promoting malignant B-cell growth and drug resistance. Therefore, disrupting the crosstalk between malignant B cells and their milieu is an attractive novel strategy for treating selected mature B-cell malignancies. Here we summarize the current knowledge about the cellular and molecular interactions between neoplastic B lymphocytes and accessory cells that shape a supportive microenvironment, and the potential therapeutic targets that are emerging, together with the new problems they raise. We discuss clinically relevant aspects and provide an outlook into future biologically oriented therapeutic strategies. We anticipate a paradigm shift in the treatment of selected B-cell malignancies, moving from targeting primarily the malignant cells toward combining cytotoxic drugs with agents that interfere with the microenvironments proactive role. Such approaches hopefully will help eliminating residual disease, thereby improving our current therapeutic efforts.
In the revised National Cancer Institute Working Group (NCI-WG)/International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (IWCLL) guidelines for CLL, CLL-like monoclonal B lymphocytosis (MBL) is defined as the presence of less than 5 x 10(9)/L B lymphocytes in the peripheral blood. However, the concentration of MBL in the blood is extremely variable. MBL in subjects with lymphocytosis require treatment at a rate of 1.1% per year and present immunoglobulin (IG) gene features and similar to good prognosis CLL. Little is known about low-count MBL cases, accidentally found in the general population. We analyzed IGHV-D-J rearrangements in 51 CLL-like MBL cases from healthy individuals, characterized by few clonal B cells. Seventy percent of the IGHV genes were mutated. The most frequent IGHV gene was IGHV4-59/61, rarely used in CLL, whereas the IGHV1-69 gene was lacking and the IGHV4-34 gene was infrequent. Only 2 of 51 (3.9%) MBL cases expressed a CLL-specific stereotyped HCDR3. Therefore, the IG gene repertoire in low-count MBL differs from both mutated and unmutated CLL, suggesting that the detection of MBL in an otherwise healthy subject is not always equivalent to a preleukemic state. Detailed IG analysis of individual MBL may help to identify cases that necessitate continuous clinical monitoring to anticipate disease progression.
Monoclonal B lymphocytosis (MBL) is a frequent phenomenon in the general population. Despite a phenotype similar to chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the possibility exists that most cases are not necessarily a pre-leukemic condition. This is suggested by the fact that MBL is at least 100 times more frequent than CLL and the diagnosis of CLL is not an inevitable fate, even among MBL cases with lymphocytosis, where it occurs only in 1.1% of the cases per year. The high incidence of MBL, if coupled with the possibility of evolution into a frank leukemic state, poses evident clinical and health system concerns. MBL in the general population usually accounts for a very low number of all circulating B-cells, being <10% of all B lymphocytes. This creates the need for a better characterisation of MBL at molecular level, aiming to identify biological features that may define which cases are more likely to progress towards clinically overt CLL. This approach should also help to avoid unnecessary and prolonged follow-ups in all individuals carrying MBL, excluding those who are extremely unlikely to develop CLL.
Mature B-cells can recognize microbial antigens via B-cell-receptor (BCR) in a specific way and via Toll-like receptors (TLR) in a costimulatory manner. A wealth of information is gathering on the possible role of antigenic stimulation in the natural history of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL). However little is known regarding the repertoire and function of TLR in CLL cells. The TLR family includes 10 different transmembrane proteins devoted to recognize specific pathogen-associated molecular patterns and to alarm immunocompetent cells to trigger an immune response. Here, we studied fresh leukaemic cells for the expression pattern of TLR1 to TLR10, NOD1, NOD2 and SIGIRR (also known as TIR8). CLL cells were found to express several pattern recognition receptors including TLR1, TLR2, TLR6, TLR10, NOD1 and NOD2. The specific TLR expressed by CLL cells were functional. Leukaemic cells, upon stimulation with TLR1/2/6 ligands, such as bacterial lipopeptides, activated the nuclear factor-kappaB signalling pathway, expressed CD86 and CD25 activation molecules, and were protected from spontaneous apoptosis. These findings further support the hypothesis that CLL cells resemble antigen-activated B-cells and suggest a potential role of TLR in modulating CLL cell response in the context of specific antigen recognition.
Otherwise healthy persons with a small number of B-cell clones circulating in the peripheral blood have been designated as having monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). Hospital-based series indicate an excess risk of progression from MBL to chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In this prospective cohort study, we tested the hypothesis that CLL is always preceded by MBL.
We analyzed somatic hypermutation (SHM) patterns and secondary rearrangements involving the immunoglobulin (IG) light chain (LC) gene loci in 725 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Important differences regarding mutational load and targeting were identified in groups of sequences defined by IGKV/IGLV gene usage and/or K/LCDR3 features. Recurrent amino acid (AA) changes in the IGKV/IGLV sequences were observed in subsets of CLL cases with stereotyped B-cell receptors (BCRs), especially those expressing IGHV3-21/IGLV3-21 and IGHV4-34/IGKV2-30 BCRs. Comparison with CLL LC sequences carrying heterogeneous K/LCDR3s or non-CLL LC sequences revealed that distinct amino acid changes appear to be "CLL-biased." Finally, a significant proportion of CLL cases with monotypic LC expression were found to carry multiple potentially functional LC rearrangements, alluding to active, (auto)antigen-driven receptor editing. In conclusion, SHM targeting in CLL LCs is just as precise and, likely, functionally driven as in heavy chains. Secondary LC gene rearrangements and subset-biased mutations in CLL LC genes are strong indications that LCs are crucial in shaping the specificity of leukemic BCRs, in association with defined heavy chains. Therefore, CLL is characterized not only by stereotyped HCDR3 and heavy chains but, rather, by stereotyped BCRs involving both chains, which generate distinctive antigen-binding grooves.
Over the past 2 decades, dramatic improvements in the efficacy of treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia have led to progressively higher percentages of clinical complete remissions. A molecular eradication of the leukemia has become not only a desirable, but also an achievable, end point that needs to be evaluated within clinical trials. The assessment of complete remission only at the clinical and morphological level is insufficient, at least for physically fit patients. The detection of minimal residual disease (MRD) in chronic lymphocytic leukemia has become feasible using PCR-based or flow cytometric techniques that reproducibly allow reaching the detection level of less than 1 leukemic cell per 10 000 leukocytes (10(-4)), the level currently defined as MRD(-) status. Emerging data indicate that the MRD status during and at the end of treatment is one of the most powerful predictors of progression-free and overall survival. This predictor appears to be independent of clinical response, type or line of therapy, and known biological markers. For these reasons, the time is ripe to test the use of MRD as a surrogate marker of clinical end points and as a real-time marker of efficacy and/or resistance to the administered therapies. In the near future, clinical trials will determine whether MRD assessment can be used for guiding therapy, either to improve quality of responses through consolidation or to prevent relapses through preemptive therapies based on the reappearance of MRD.
Primary splenic small B-cell lymphomas mostly comprise the distinct entity of splenic marginal-zone lymphoma (SMZL) and the provisional category of splenic lymphoma/leukemia unclassifiable, mainly represented by the hairy cell leukemia variant and splenic diffuse red pulp small B-cell lymphoma (SDRL). Until recently, histopathologic examination of splenectomy specimens was considered mandatory for the diagnosis of SMZL. However, nowadays, mainly because of advances in chemoimmunotherapy, splenectomy is performed much less frequently. We evaluated the diagnostic efficacy of bone marrow biopsy (BMB) histopathology in the diagnostic approach toward SMZL and SDRL and tested whether it may serve as a substitute for spleen histopathology in the differential diagnosis between these 2 entities. To this end, we conducted a paired assessment of BMB and spleen diagnostic samples from 46 cases with a diagnosis of SMZL (n=32) or SDRL (n=14) based on spleen histopathology. We demonstrate that detailed immunohistopathologic BMB evaluation offers adequate evidence for the confirmation of these entities and their differential diagnosis from other small B-cell lymphoma histotypes. Notably, the immunophenotypical profile of SMZL and SDRL was identical in both BMB and spleen specimens for 21 evaluated markers. Paired assessment of BMB and spleen specimens did not identify discriminating patterns of BMB infiltration, cytology, and/or immunohistology between SMZL and SDRL. Accordingly, bone marrow histopathology contributes significantly in confirming the diagnosis of SMZL and SDRL. However, presently it is not possible to distinguish SMZL from SDRL on the basis of BMB evaluation alone; hence, histopathologic examination of the spleen remains the "gold standard" approach.
The study was aimed to investigate modifications of apoptotic gene expression profile by microarray technique in 10 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia by treatment with rituximab, cladribine and cyclophosphamide (RCC) according to IGHV mutational status. The TaqMan Low Density Array for 96 gene transcripts was used. Those modifications followed two distinctive patterns largely overlapping the IGHV mutational status. In the IGHV-mutated group, the expression of many proapoptotic genes increased after treatment as compared to initial value. Our results suggest that RCC drugs may act through influence on the expression of some apoptosis-involved genes dependently on the IGVH mutational status.
Chromatin remodeling is fundamental for B-cell differentiation. In the present study, we explored the role of KAP1, the cofactor of KRAB-ZFP transcriptional repressors, in this process. B-lymphoid-specific Kap1-KO mice displayed reduced numbers of mature B cells, lower steady-state levels of Abs, and accelerated rates of decay of neutralizing Abs after viral immunization. Transcriptome analyses of Kap1-deleted B splenocytes revealed an up-regulation of PTEN, the enzymatic counteractor of PIK3 signaling, and of genes encoding DNA-damage response factors, cell-cycle regulators, and chemokine receptors. ChIP/seq studies established that KAP1 bound at or close to several of these genes and controlled chromatin status at their promoters. Genome wide, KAP1 binding sites lacked active B cell-specific enhancers and were enriched in repressive histone marks, further supporting a role for this molecule in gene silencing in vivo. Likely responsible for tethering KAP1 to at least some of these targets, a discrete subset of KRAB-ZFPs is enriched in B lymphocytes. Our results therefore reveal the role of KRAB/KAP1-mediated epigenetic regulation in B-cell development and homeostasis.
Subgroups of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have distinct expression profiles of Toll-like receptor (TLR) pathway-associated genes. To test the hypothesis that signaling through innate immunity receptors may influence the behavior of the malignant clone, we investigated the functional response triggered by the stimulation of TLRs and NOD2 in 67 CLL cases assigned to different subgroups on the basis of immunoglobulin heavy variable (IGHV ) gene usage, IGHV gene mutational status or B-cell receptor (BcR) stereotypy. Differences in the induction of costimulatory molecules and/or apoptosis were observed in mutated versus unmutated CLL. Different responses were also identified in subsets with stereotyped BcRs, underscoring the idea that "subset-biased" innate immunity responses may occur independently of mutational status. Additionally, differential modulation of kinase activities was induced by TLR stimulation of different CLL subgroups, revealing a TLR7-tolerant state for cases belonging to stereotyped subset #4. The distinct patterns of TLR/NOD2 functional activity in cells from CLL subgroups defined by the molecular features of the clonotypic BcRs might prove relevant for elucidating the immune mechanisms underlying CLL natural history and for defining subgroups of patients who might benefit from treatment with specific TLR ligands.
Ras-association domain family (RASSF) members are a family of genes containing an RA domain in either the C-terminus (RASSF1-RASSF6) or in the N-terminus (RASSF7-RASSF10). Members of this gene family are core members of the Salvador/Warts/Hippo (SWH) tumor suppressor network and have been shown to be involved in human tumorigenesis. Among the RASSF genes, RASSF1A is one of the most frequently methylated genes in a wide range of epithelial cancers, and we previously demonstrated that RASSF6 and RASSF10 genes are frequently epigenetically inactivated in acute leukemias, particularly in those of the B cell type. We here determined the methylation profiles of all members of the RASSF gene family as well as two recently identified (KIBRA, CRB3) upstream members of the SWH pathway in the leukemic B cells obtained from a well-characterized cohort of 95 patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Among the RASSF genes, RASSF10 (50%) was the most frequently methylated gene, followed by RASSF6 (16%). The remaining RASSF genes were either unmethylated or showed a frequency of methylation < 10%. The upstream SWH member KIBRA was also frequently methylated in CLL (35%) in contrast to CRB3. Interestingly, the analysis of clinical-pathological parameters showed that KIBRA methylation was associated with unfavorable biological prognostic parameters, including unmutated IGHV genes (p = 0.007) and high CD38 expression (p < 0.05).
Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL), a newly recognized entity found in approximately 3% of normal persons, precedes chronic lymphocytic leukemia. However, MBLs progress into overt malignancy only in a very minor portion of cases, thus raising the clinical concern of whether and how we can discriminate at diagnosis which rare cases will evolve into a fully fledged tumor. Understanding the molecular/biologic features underlying the risk of progression may significantly modify our strategies for correctly managing B-cell premalignant states. MBL cells bear the same chromosomal abnormalities of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Genome-wide sequencing and animal models indicate that genetic abnormalities disrupting the control of cell growth and survival cooperate with microenvironment-triggered events, mainly represented by antigen-mediated B-cell receptor and coreceptor stimulation, to trigger and fuel clonal expansion. The initial functional activation of survival/proliferation pathways may later become subsidized by autonomous genetic abnormalities (eg, a single mutation) affecting the same or parallel critical signaling pathway(s).
Mounting evidence indicates that grouping of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) into distinct subsets with stereotyped BCRs is functionally and prognostically relevant. However, several issues need revisiting, including the criteria for identification of BCR stereotypy and its actual frequency as well as the identification of "CLL-biased" features in BCR Ig stereotypes. To this end, we examined 7596 Ig VH (IGHV-IGHD-IGHJ) sequences from 7424 CLL patients, 3 times the size of the largest published series, with an updated version of our purpose-built clustering algorithm. We document that CLL may be subdivided into 2 distinct categories: one with stereotyped and the other with nonstereotyped BCRs, at an approximate ratio of 1:2, and provide evidence suggesting a different ontogeny for these 2 categories. We also show that subset-defining sequence patterns in CLL differ from those underlying BCR stereotypy in other B-cell malignancies. Notably, 19 major subsets contained from 20 to 213 sequences each, collectively accounting for 943 sequences or one-eighth of the cohort. Hence, this compartmentalized examination of VH sequences may pave the way toward a molecular classification of CLL with implications for targeted therapeutic interventions, applicable to a significant number of patients assigned to the same subset.
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