Cirmtuzumab inhibits Wnt5a-induced Rac1 activation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia treated with ibrutinib.

Abstract

Signaling via the B cell receptor (BCR) plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This is underscored by the clinical effectiveness of ibrutinib, an inhibitor of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) that can block BCR-signaling. However, ibrutinib cannot induce complete responses (CR) or durable remissions without continued therapy, suggesting alternative pathways also contribute to CLL growth/survival that are independent of BCR-signaling. ROR1 is a receptor for Wnt5a, which can promote activation of Rac1 to enhance CLL-cell proliferation and survival. In this study, we found that CLL cells of patients treated with ibrutinib had activated Rac1. Moreover, Wnt5a could induce Rac1 activation and enhance proliferation of CLL cells treated with ibrutinib at concentrations that were effective in completely inhibiting BTK and BCR-signaling. Wnt5a-induced Rac1 activation could be blocked by cirmtuzumab (UC-961), an anti-ROR1 mAb. We found that treatment with cirmtuzumab and ibrutinib was significantly more effective than treatment with either agent alone in clearing leukemia cells in vivo. This study indicates that cirmtuzumab may enhance the activity of ibrutinib in the treatment of patients with CLL or other ROR1+ B-cell malignancies.Leukemia advance online publication, 3 January 2017; doi:10.1038/leu.2016.368.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27904138

EGR2 mutations define a new clinically aggressive subgroup of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Abstract

Recurrent mutations within EGR2 were recently reported in advanced-stage chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients and associated with a worse outcome. To study their prognostic impact, 2403 CLL patients were examined for mutations in the EGR2 hotspot region including a screening (n=1283) and two validation cohorts (UK CLL4 trial patients, n=366; CLL Research Consortium (CRC) patients, n=490). Targeted deep-sequencing of 27 known/postulated CLL driver genes was also performed in 38 EGR2-mutated patients to assess concurrent mutations. EGR2 mutations were detected in 91/2403 (3.8%) investigated cases, and associated with younger age at diagnosis, advanced clinical stage, high CD38 expression and unmutated IGHV genes. EGR2-mutated patients frequently carried ATM lesions (42%), TP53 aberrations (18%) and NOTCH1/FBXW7 mutations (16%). EGR2 mutations independently predicted shorter time-to-first-treatment (TTFT) and overall survival (OS) in the screening cohort; they were confirmed associated with reduced TTFT and OS in the CRC cohort and independently predicted short OS from randomization in the UK CLL4 cohort. A particularly dismal outcome was observed among EGR2-mutated patients who also carried TP53 aberrations. In summary, EGR2 mutations were independently associated with an unfavorable prognosis, comparable to CLL patients carrying TP53 aberrations, suggesting that EGR2-mutated patients represent a new patient subgroup with very poor outcome.Leukemia advance online publication, 3 January 2017; doi:10.1038/leu.2016.359.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27890934

hBfl-1/hNOXA Interaction Studies Provide New Insights on the Role of Bfl-1 in Cancer Cell Resistance and for the Design of Novel Anticancer Agents.

Abstract

Upregulation of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins in certain tumors confers cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy or radiations. Members of the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins, including Bcl-2, Mcl-1, Bcl-xL, Bcl-w, and Bfl-1, inhibit apoptosis by selectively binding to conserved α-helical regions, named BH3 domains, of pro-apoptotic proteins such as Bim, tBid, Bad, or NOXA. Five antiapoptotic proteins have been identified that interact with various selectivity with BH3 containing pro-apoptotic counterparts. Cancer cells present various and variable levels of these proteins, making the design of effective apoptosis based therapeutics challenging. Recently, BH3 profiling was introduced as a method to classify cancer cells based on their ability to resist apoptosis following exposure to selected BH3 peptides. However, these studies were based on binding affinities measured with model BH3 peptides and Bcl-2-proteins taken from mouse sequences. While the majority of these interactions are conserved between mice and humans, we found surprisingly that human NOXA binds to human Bfl-1 potently and covalently via conserved Cys residues, with over 2 orders of magnitude increased affinity over hMcl-1. Our data suggest that some assumptions of the original BH3 profiling need to be revisited and that perhaps further targeting efforts should be redirected toward Bfl-1, for which no suitable specific inhibitors or pharmacological tools have been reported. In this regard, we also describe the initial design and characterizations of novel covalent BH3-based agents that potently target Bfl-1. These molecules could provide a novel platform on which to design effective Bfl-1 targeting therapeutics.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28026162

Real-world clinical experience in the Connect® chronic lymphocytic leukaemia registry: a prospective cohort study of 1494 patients across 199 US centres.

Abstract

The clinical course of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is heterogeneous, and treatment options vary considerably. The Connect®CLL registry is a multicentre, prospective observational cohort study that provides a real-world perspective on the management of, and outcomes for, patients with CLL. Between 2010 and 2014, 1494 patients with CLL and that initiated therapy, were enrolled from 199 centres throughout the USA (179 community-, 17 academic-, and 3 government-based centres). Patients were grouped by line of therapy at enrolment (LOT). We describe the clinical and demographic characteristics of, and practice patterns for, patients with CLL enrolled in this treatment registry, providing patient-level observational data that represent real-world experiences in the USA. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analyses were performed on 49·3% of patients at enrolment. The most common genetic abnormalities detected by FISH were del(13q) and trisomy 12 (45·7% and 20·8%, respectively). Differences in disease characteristics and comorbidities were observed between patients enrolled in LOT1 and combined LOT2/≥3 cohorts. Important trends observed include the infrequent use of genetic prognostic testing, and differences in patient characteristics for patients receiving chemoimmunotherapy combinations. These data represent experiences of patients with CLL in the USA, which may inform treatment decisions in everyday practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27861736

Transcriptomic Characterization of SF3B1 Mutation Reveals Its Pleiotropic Effects in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Abstract

Mutations in SF3B1, which encodes a spliceosome component, are associated with poor outcome in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but how these contribute to CLL progression remains poorly understood. We undertook a transcriptomic characterization of primary human CLL cells to identify transcripts and pathways affected by SF3B1 mutation. Splicing alterations, identified in the analysis of bulk cells, were confirmed in single SF3B1-mutated CLL cells and also found in cell lines ectopically expressing mutant SF3B1. SF3B1 mutation was found to dysregulate multiple cellular functions including DNA damage response, telomere maintenance, and Notch signaling (mediated through KLF8 upregulation, increased TERC and TERT expression, or altered splicing of DVL2 transcript, respectively). SF3B1 mutation leads to diverse changes in CLL-related pathways.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27818134

High-level ROR1 associates with accelerated disease-progression in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Abstract

ROR1 is an oncoembryonic orphan-receptor found on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B cells, but not on normal post-partum tissues. ROR1 is a receptor for Wnt5a that may complex with TCL1, a co-activator of AKT that is able to promote development of CLL. We found the CLL cells of a few patients expressed negligible ROR1 (ROR1Neg), but expressed TCL1A at levels comparable to those of samples that expressed ROR1 (ROR1Pos). Transcriptome analyses revealed that ROR1Neg cases generally could be distinguished from those that were ROR1Pos in unsupervised gene-expression clustering analysis. Gene-set enrichment analyses demonstrated that ROR1Neg CLL had lower expression and activation of AKT-signaling pathways relative to ROR1Pos CLL, similar to what was noted for leukemia that respectively developed in TCL1 versus ROR1xTCL1 transgenic mice. In contrast to its effect on ROR1Pos CLL, Wnt5a did not enhance the proliferation, chemotaxis, or survival of ROR1Neg CLL. We examined the CLL cells from 1,568 patients, which we randomly assigned to a training or validation set of 797 or 771 cases, respectively. Using recursive partitioning, we defined a threshold for ROR1-surface-expression that could segregate samples of the training set into ROR1-Hi versus ROR1-Lo subgroups that differed significantly in their median treatment free survival (TFS). Using this threshold, we found that ROR1-Hi cases had a significantly shorter median TFS and overall survival than ROR1-Lo cases in the validation set. These data demonstrate that expression of ROR1 may promote leukemia-cell activation and survival and enhance disease progression in patients with CLL.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27815263

Transcriptomic Characterization of SF3B1 Mutation Reveals Its Pleiotropic Effects in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Abstract

Mutations in SF3B1, which encodes a spliceosome component, are associated with poor outcome in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), but how these contribute to CLL progression remains poorly understood. We undertook a transcriptomic characterization of primary human CLL cells to identify transcripts and pathways affected by SF3B1 mutation. Splicing alterations, identified in the analysis of bulk cells, were confirmed in single SF3B1-mutated CLL cells and also found in cell lines ectopically expressing mutant SF3B1. SF3B1 mutation was found to dysregulate multiple cellular functions including DNA damage response, telomere maintenance, and Notch signaling (mediated through KLF8 upregulation, increased TERC and TERT expression, or altered splicing of DVL2 transcript, respectively). SF3B1 mutation leads to diverse changes in CLL-related pathways.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27818134

Selectivity in Small Molecule Splicing Modulation.

Abstract

The dysregulation of RNA splicing is a molecular hallmark of disease, including different and often complex cancers. While gaining recognition as a target for therapeutic discovery, understanding the complex mechanisms guiding RNA splicing remains a challenge for chemical biology. The discovery of small molecule splicing modulators has recently enabled an evaluation of the mechanisms of aberrant splicing. We now report on three unique features within the selectivity of splicing modulators. First, we provide evidence that structural modifications within a splicing modulator can alter the splicing of introns in specific genes differently. These studies indicate that structure activity relationships not only have an effect on splicing activity but also include specificity for specific introns within different genes. Second, we find that these splicing modulators also target the mRNAs encoding components of the spliceosome itself. Remarkably, this effect includes the genes for the SF3B complex, a target of pladienolide B and related splicing modulators. Finally, we report on the first observation of a temporal phenomenon associated with small molecule splicing modulation. Combined, these three observations provide an important new perspective for the exploration of splicing modulation in terms of both future medicinal chemistry programs as well as understanding the key facets underlying its timing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27499047

Ibrutinib inhibits CD20 upregulation on CLL B cells mediated by the CXCR4/SDF-1 axis.

Abstract

Agents targeting B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling-associated kinases such as Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase can induce mobilization of neoplastic B cells from the lymphoid tissues into the blood, which makes them potentially ideal to combine with anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (such as rituximab, obinutuzumab, or ofatumumab) for treatment of B-cell lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Here we show that interactions between leukemia cells and stromal cells (HS-5) upregulate CD20 on CLL cells and that administering ibrutinib downmodulates CD20 (MS4A1) expression in vivo. We observed that CLL cells that have recently exited the lymph node microenvironment and moved into the peripheral blood (CXCR4(dim)CD5(bright) subpopulation) have higher cell surface levels of CD20 than the cells circulating in the bloodstream for a longer time (CXCR4(bright)CD5(dim) cells). We found that CD20 is directly upregulated by CXCR4 ligand stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1α, CXCL12) produced by stromal cells, and BTK-inhibitor ibrutinib and CXCR4-inhibitor plerixafor block SDF-1α-mediated CD20 upregulation. Ibrutinib also downmodulated Mcl1 levels in CLL cells in vivo and in coculture with stromal cells. Overall, our study provides a first detailed mechanistic explanation of CD20 expression regulation in the context of chemokine signaling and microenvironmental interactions, which may have important implications for microenvironment-targeting therapies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27480113