The B-cell receptor signaling pathway as a therapeutic target in CLL

Jennifer A. Woyach, Amy J. Johnson and John C. Byrd


Targeted therapy with imatinib and other selective tyrosine kinase inhibitors has transformed the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Unlike CML, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) lacks a common genetic aberration amenable to therapeutic targeting. However, our understanding of normal B-cell versus CLL biology points to differences in properties of B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling that may be amenable to selective therapeutic targeting. The application of mouse models has further expanded this understanding, and provides information about targets in the BCR signaling pathway that may have other important functions in cell development or long-term health. Additionally, over-expression or knock-out of selected targets offers the potential to validate targets genetically using new mouse models of CLL. The initial success of BCR-targeted therapies has promoted much excitement in the field of CLL. At the present time, GS-1101, which reversibly inhibits PI3-kinase delta, and Ibrutinib (PCI-32765), an irreversible inhibitor of Bruton's Tyrosine Kinase (Btk), have generated the most promising early results in clinical trials including predominately refractory CLL where durable disease control has been observed. This review provides a summary of BCR signaling, tools for studying this pathway relevant to drug development in CLL, and early progress made with therapeutics targeting BCR-related kinases.

  • Submitted February 8, 2012.
  • Accepted May 31, 2012.