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Woyach J.A.,Ohio State University | Bojnik E.,International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Ruppert A.S.,Ohio State University | Stefanovski M.R.,Ohio State University | And 15 more authors.
Blood | Year: 2014

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is characterized by constitutive activation of the B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway, but variable responsiveness of the BCR to antigen ligation. Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) shows constitutive activity in CLL and is the target of irreversible inhibition by ibrutinib, an orally bioavailable kinase inhibitor that has shown outstanding activity in CLL. Early clinical results in CLL with other reversible and irreversible BTK inhibitors have been less promising, however, raising the question of whether BTK kinase activity is an important target of ibrutinib and also in CLL. To determine the role of BTK in CLL, we used patient samples and the Eμ-TCL1 (TCL1) transgenic mouse model of CLL, which results in spontaneous leukemia development. Inhibition of BTK in primary human CLL cells by small interfering RNA promotes apoptosis. Inhibition of BTK kinase activity through either targeted genetic inactivation or ibrutinib in the TCL1 mouse significantly delays the development of CLL, demonstrating that BTK is a critical kinase for CLL development and expansion and thus an important target of ibrutinib. Collectively, our data confirm the importance of kinase-functional BTK in CLL. © 2014 by The American Society of Hematology.


Suljagic M.,International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Longo P.G.,International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Bennardo S.,International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Perlas E.,Mouse Biology Unit | And 3 more authors.
Blood | Year: 2010

Inhibition of antigen-dependent B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling is considered a promising therapeutic approach in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but experimental in vivo evidence to support this view is still lacking. We have now investigated whether inhibition of BCR signaling with the selective Syk inhibitor fostamatinib disodium (R788) will affect the growth of the leukemias that develop in the Eμ-TCL1 transgenic mouse model of CLL. Similarly to human CLL, these leukemias express stereotyped BCRs that react with autoantigens exposed on the surface of senescent or apoptotic cells, suggesting that they are antigen driven. We show that R788 effectively inhibits BCR signaling in vivo, resulting in reduced proliferation and survival of the malignant B cells and significantly prolonged survival of the treated animals. The growth-inhibitory effect of R788 occurs despite the relatively modest cytotoxic effect in vitro and is independent of basal Syk activity, suggesting that R788 functions primarily by inhibiting antigen-dependent BCR signals. Importantly, the effect of R788 was found to be selective for the malignant clones, as no disturbance in the production of normal B lymphocytes was observed. Collectively, these data provide further rationale for clinical trials with R788 in CLL and establish the BCR-signaling pathway as an important therapeutic target in this disease. © 2010 by The American Society of Hematology.


Efremov D.G.,International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Wiestner A.,U.S. National Institutes of Health | Laurenti L.,Catholic University Hospital melli
Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious Diseases | Year: 2012

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a disease of malignant CD5+ B lymphocytes that are characterized by frequent expression of autoreactive B-cell receptors (BCRs) and marked dependence on microenvironmental signals for proliferation and survival. Among the latter, signals propagated through the BCR are believed to play a key role in leukemia initiation, maintenance and evolution. Drugs that can disrupt these signals have recently emerged as potential therapeutic agents in CLL and several of them are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Particularly promising clinical responses have been obtained with inhibitors of the kinases SYK, BTK, and PI3K5, which function by blocking BCR signal transduction. In addition, recent studies focusing on the phosphatase PTPN22, which is involved in the pathogenesis of multiple autoimmune diseases and is markedly overexpressed in CLL cells, suggest that it may be possible in the future to develop strategies that will selectively reprogram BCR survival signals into signals that induce leukemic cell death. This review focuses on the biological basis behind these strategies and highlights some of the most promising BCR-targeting agents in ongoing preclinical and clinical studies.


PubMed | Ferrarotto Hospital, Catholic University Hospital melli, University of Piemonte Orientale, Clinical and Experimental Onco Hematology Unit and 4 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Oncotarget | Year: 2015

The B-cell receptor (BCR) plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). By global microRNA profiling of CLL cells stimulated or not stimulated by anti-IgM, significant up-regulation of microRNAs from the miR-132~212 cluster was observed both in IGHV gene unmutated (UM) and mutated (M) CLL cells. Parallel gene expression profiling identified SIRT1, a deacetylase targeting several proteins including TP53, among the top-ranked miR-132 target genes down-regulated upon anti-IgM exposure. The direct regulation of SIRT1 expression by miR-132 was demonstrated using luciferase assays. The reduction of SIRT1 mRNA and protein (P = 0.001) upon anti-IgM stimulation was associated with an increase in TP53 acetylation (P = 0.007), and the parallel up-regulation of the TP53 target gene CDKN1A. Consistently, miR-132 transfections of CLL-like cells resulted in down-regulation of SIRT1 and an induction of a TP53-dependent apoptosis. Finally, in a series of 134 CLL samples, miR-132, when expressed above the median value, associated with prolonged time-to-first-treatment in patients with M CLL (HR = 0.41; P = 0.02). Collectively, the miR-132/SIRT1/TP53 axis was identified as a novel pathway triggered by BCR engagement that further increases the complexity of the interactions between tumor microenvironments and CLL cells.


PubMed | University of Trieste, Catholic University Hospital melli, Medical University of Warsaw and International Center for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Blood | Year: 2016

The Bcl-2 antagonist ABT-199 (venetoclax) has demonstrated promising clinical activity in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). ABT-199 is strongly cytotoxic against unstimulated peripheral blood CLL cells in vitro but is much less effective against CLL cells that have received survival signals from the microenvironment. In particular, stimulation of CLL cells with CD40L results in substantial resistance mediated by induction of the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins Bcl-xL and Bfl-1. In this study, we investigated whether resistance to ABT-199 can be conferred by B-cell receptor (BCR) stimulation, which is another important survival signal from the leukemic microenvironment. We show that sustained BCR stimulation results in significant ABT-199 resistance, which correlates with induction of the antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1 and less consistently with downregulation of proapoptotic Bmf, Hrk, and BimEL A major role for Mcl-1 in conferring ABT-199 resistance is additionally supported by knockdown and enforced expression experiments with primary CLL cells. We further show that SYK, BTK, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors significantly downregulate Mcl-1, but with different efficacy. Complete Mcl-1 downregulation was consistently achieved only with SYK inhibitors R406 and GS-9973 (entospletinib), whereas the BTK inhibitor ibrutinib and the PI3K inhibitor idelalisib in more than half of the cases had only a partial effect. The greater ability of SYK inhibitors to downregulate Mcl-1 correlated with their greater capacity to block BCR-mediated inactivation of GSK-3, a major negative regulator of Mcl-1. The finding that BCR signaling inhibitors differ in their ability to target Mcl-1 is relevant for the design of clinical trials combining these agents with ABT-199.


Bomben R.,Clinical and Experimental Onco Hematology Unit | Gobessi S.,ICGEB Outstation Monterotondo | Dal Bo M.,Clinical and Experimental Onco Hematology Unit | Volinia S.,University of Ferrara | And 11 more authors.
Leukemia | Year: 2012

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells from clinically aggressive cases have a greater capacity to respond to external microenvironmental stimuli, including those transduced through Toll-like-receptor-9 (TLR9). Concomitant microRNA and gene expression profiling in purified CLL cells (n17) expressing either unmutated (UM) or mutated (M) IGHV genes selected microRNAs from the miR-1792 family as significantly upregulated and in part responsible for modifications in the gene expression profile of UM CLL cells stimulated with the TLR9 agonist CpG. Notably, the stable and sustained upregulation of miR-1792 microRNAs by CpG was preceded by a transient induction of the proto-oncogene MYC. The enforced expression of miR-17, a major member from this family, reduced the expression of the tumor suppressor genes E2F5, TP53INP1, TRIM8 and ZBTB4, and protected cells from serum-free-induced apoptosis (P0.05). Consistently, transfection with miR-1792 family antagomiRs reduced Bromo-deoxy-uridine incorporation in CpG-stimulated UM CLL cells. Finally, miR-17 expression levels, evaluated in 83 CLL samples, were significantly higher in UM (P0.03) and ZAP-70 high (P0.02) cases. Altogether, these data reveal a role for microRNAs of the miR-1792 family in regulating pro-survival and growth-promoting responses of CLL cells to TLR9 triggering. Overall, targeting of this pathway may represent a novel therapeutic option for management of aggressive CLL. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Negro R.,ICGEB | Gobessi S.,ICGEB | Longo P.G.,ICGEB | He Y.,Indiana University | And 3 more authors.
Blood | Year: 2012

A polymorphic variant of the phosphatase PTPN22 has been associated with increased risk for multiple autoimmune diseases. The risk allele is thought to function by diminishing antigen-receptor signals responsible for negative selection of autoreactive lymphocytes. We now show that PTPN22 is markedly overexpressed in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a common malignancy of autoreactive B lymphocytes. We also show that overexpression of PTPN22 significantly inhibits antigen-induced apoptosis of primary CLL cells by blocking B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathways that negatively regulate lymphocyte survival. More importantly, we show that PTPN22 positively regulates the antiapoptotic AKT kinase, which provides a powerful survival signal to antigen-stimulated CLL cells. This selective uncoupling of AKT from other downstream BCR signaling pathways is a result of inhibition of a negative regulatory circuit involving LYN, CD22, and SHIP. Finally, we show that PTPN22 can be effectively down-regulated by the PKC inhibitors ruboxistaurin and sotrastaurin, resulting in enhanced killing of CLL cells exposed to proapoptotic BCR stimuli. Collectively, these data suggest that PTPN22 overexpression represents a protective mechanism that allows autoantigen-activated CLL cells to escape from negative selection and indicate that this mechanism could be exploited for therapeutic purposes by targeting PTPN22 with PKC inhibitors. © 2012 by The American Society of Hematology.


Suljagic M.,ICGEB | Laurenti L.,Catholic University Hospital melli | Tarnani M.,Catholic University Hospital melli | Alam M.,University of Michigan | And 2 more authors.
Leukemia | Year: 2010

The PI3K/Akt pathway is activated in response to various microenvironmental stimuli that regulate the survival and proliferation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B-cells, including triggering of the B-cell receptor (BCR). Although this pathway is frequently targeted in cancer, no significant alterations have yet been identified in CLL. We now show that the phosphatase PH domain leucin-rich repeat protein phosphatase (PHLPP1), a recently identified tumor suppressor and negative regulator of the Akt kinase, is absent or expressed at substantially reduced levels in CLL B-cells. To determine what the consequences of PHLPP1 loss on BCR signaling are, we downregulated or re-expressed PHLPP1 in lymphoma cell lines and primary CLL B-cells, respectively. Downregulation of PHLPP1 increased BCR-induced phosphorylation and activation of the Akt, GSK3 and ERK kinases, whereas re-expression had the opposite effect. Importantly, re-expression of PHLPP1 in primary CLL cells prevented upregulation of Mcl-1 and inhibited the increase in leukemic cell viability induced by sustained BCR engagement. Enforced expression of PHLPP1 also affected the response to other microenvironmental stimuli, particularly in terms of ERK phosphorylation. Collectively, these data show that CLL cells lack an important negative regulator of the Akt and ERK pathways, which could confer them a growth advantage by facilitating the propagation of crucial microenvironment-derived stimuli. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.


Efremov D.G.,CNR Institute of Neuroscience | Laurenti L.,Catholic University Hospital melli
Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs | Year: 2011

Introduction: The B-cell receptor (BCR) delivers antigen-dependent and -independent signals that have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several common B-cell malignancies. Agents that can efficiently block BCR signaling have recently been developed and are currently being evaluated as novel targeted therapies. Among these, agents that inhibit the Syk kinase appear particularly promising in preclinical and early clinical studies. Areas covered: The manuscript provides an overview of recent findings that implicate Syk and the BCR signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of several common lymphoid malignancies. It outlines preclinical and early clinical experiences with the Syk inhibitor fostamatinib disodium (R788) and discusses various options for further clinical development of this compound. Expert opinion: Inhibitors of Syk or other components of the BCR signaling pathway are emerging as an exciting novel class of agents for the treatment of common B-cell malignancies. Future efforts should focus on defining the disease entities that are most likely to benefit from these agents, although considerable evidence is already available to pursue such studies in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Combinations with chemo-immunotherapy, treatment of early-stage disease and consolidation therapy should all be explored and could lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches with improved efficacy, tolerability and toxicity profiles. © 2011 Informa UK, Ltd.


Tarnani M.,Catholic University Hospital melli | Laurenti L.,Catholic University Hospital melli | Longo P.G.,CNR Institute of Neuroscience | Piccirillo N.,Catholic University Hospital melli | And 6 more authors.
Leukemia Research | Year: 2010

We recently reported that leukemic cells from IgVH-unmutated/progressive CLL more frequently proliferate in response to CpG-ODN stimulation than their corresponding counterparts. Here we evaluated the prognostic impact of this proliferative response in 91 CLL patients. The proliferative response was highly predictive of PFS, TTT and OS in the whole series and refined prognosis in patients with M-CLL. BCR stimulation modulated the response to CpG-ODN, suggesting that the proliferative capacity of the leukemic cells is related to antigen-encounter history. These data support the hypothesis that the capacity of the leukemic cells to respond to external stimuli influences disease progression in CLL. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.

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