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Mechanisms of Disease Persistence in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)

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Annual rept. 15 Sep 2005-14 Sep 2006

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Disease persistence is the main issue faced by CML patients on therapy with imatinib and eradication of persistent malignant cells will be critical for the longterm success of kinase inhibitor therapy. Mechanisms underlying acquired resistance to imatinib have been extensively studied and the manner by which mutations of the Bcr-Abl kinase domain can reduce or eliminate sensitivity of CML cells to imatinib has been well characterized. Disease persistence in responding patients, in contrast, is still poorly understood. We sought to identify and extensively characterize hematopoietic stem cells responsible for disease persistence and explore their mechanisms of imatinib resistance. Using in vitro culture of primary CML progenitor cells, we identified both quiescent and cycling cells capable of surviving in the presence of imatinib. We observed inhibition of tyrosine phosphorylation by imatinib in surviving cells, suggesting a Bcr-Abl independent mechanism of survival. To apply information gained from in vitro culture to persistent cell populations in treated CML patients, we attempted to isolate Bcr-Abl positive cells from patients in cytogenetic remission. Although persistent CML cells may reside within the stem cell compartment, techniques of stem cell enrichment did not lead to enrichment of CML cells. We are therefore developing techniques for Bcr-Abl-specific detection to facilitate these studies, including creation of a Bcr-Abl junction-specific antibody, development of a Bcr-Abl mRNA junction-specific molecular beacon and analysis of potential markers of CML cells. Evaluation of the utility of these techniques in primary cells is ongoing. The detailed analysis of primary samples is technically challenging, but is essential for an understanding of disease persistence and may allow identification of novel drug targets or methods to sensitize resistant cells to imatinib or alternative Bcr-Abl kinase inhibitors.

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  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine and Medical Research

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