Using a new assay method to study tumor cells, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center have found evidence of clonal evolution in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The assay method distinguishes features of leukemia cells that indicate whether the disease will be aggressive or slow-moving, a key factor in when and how patients are treated.
The findings are published in the July 26, 2012 First Edition online issue of Blood.
The progression of CLL is highly variable, dependent upon the rate and effects of accumulating monoclonal B cells in the blood, marrow, and lymphoid tissues. Some patients are symptom-free for years and do not require treatment, which involves the use of drugs that can cause significant side effects and are not curative. In other patients, however, CLL is relatively aggressive and demands therapeutic intervention soon after diagnosis.
"Our study shows that there may not be a sharp dividing line between the more aggressive and less aggressive forms of CLL," said Thomas J. Kipps, MD, PhD, Evelyn and Edwin Tasch Chair in Cancer Research and senior author of the study. "Instead, it seems that over time the leukemia cells of patients with indolent disease begin to use genes similar to those that are generally used by CLL cells of patients with aggressive disease. In other words, prior to requiring therapy, the patterns of genes expressed by CLL cells appear to converge, regardless of whether or not the patient had aggressive versus indolent disease at diagnosis."
Existing markers for aggressive or indolent disease are mostly fixed and have declining predictive value the longer the patient is from his or her initial diagnosis. When the blood sample is collected, these markers cannot reliably predict whether a CLL patient will need therapy soon, particularly when the patient has had the diagnosis of CLL for many years.
|Contact: Scott LaFee|
University of California - San Diego