Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Emerging role of kinase-targeted strategies in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

  1. Adrian Wiestner1
  1. 1Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
This article has an Erratum 122(17):3090


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a malignancy of mature B cells that depend on host factors in the tissue microenvironment for survival and proliferation. In vitro, CLL cells rapidly undergo apoptosis unless microenvironmental factors are provided that support their survival. Signaling pathways activated in the microenvironment in vivo include the B-cell receptor (BCR) and NF-κB pathways. Thus, CLL is a disease “addicted to the host” and is dependent on pathways that promote normal B-cell development, expansion, and survival; this is particularly true in the case of the BCR signaling cascade. Small-molecule inhibitors of kinases that are essential for BCR signal transduction abrogate the stimulating effects of the microenvironment on CLL cells. The orally administered tyrosine kinase inhibitors fostamatinib and ibrutinib and the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor GS-1101 have induced impressive responses in relapsed and refractory CLL patients, mostly with moderate side effects. Reductions in lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly are seen within weeks and are frequently accompanied by a transient rise in absolute lymphocyte count that is asymptomatic and probably the result of changes in CLL cell trafficking. This review discusses the biologic basis for kinase inhibitors as targeted therapy of CLL and summarizes the exciting early clinical experience with these agents.

  • Submitted May 21, 2012.
  • Accepted July 23, 2012.
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