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Molecular Pathogenesis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

[ Vol. 6 , Issue. 6 ]


Alexey V. Danilov, Olga V. Danilova, Andreas K. Klein and Brigitte T. Huber   Pages 665 - 675 ( 11 )


Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is unique among malignancies since it represents an accumulation of B-lymphocytes resistant to apoptosis. Several factors are thought to confer this unusual feature to a CLL B-cell. Misbalance between cytoplasmic pro-survival and pro-death molecules, such as Bcl-2, Mcl-1 and alike, appears to be one of the key factors defining B-cell longevity. Autocrine pathways, such as vascular endothelial growth factor-receptor pathway, also contribute to survival. The role of B-cell receptor (BCR) is less straightforward. In the last decade it became clear that CLL does not constitute a uniform disease, but, based on the prevalence of mutations in the BCR heavy chain (IgVH), can be classified into two distinct subgroups. Several molecular markers correlate with IgVH mutations. Some of them, like zeta-chain associated protein kinase, are also involved in BCR signaling and influence cell cycle. Yet the primary pathogenic event leading to increased proliferation and survival in CLL is difficult to ascertain. Molecules involved in BCR signaling pathways and cytoplasmic pro-survival players probably act in concert to confer resistance to apoptosis. In this respect, the role of the B-CLL environment, which includes nurse-like cells and T-cells, cannot be underestimated. Nurse-like cells provide stimuli necessary for perpetuation of life in CLL. On the other hand, abnormal T-cell function, whether it is excessive immunosuppression delivered by regulatory T-cells or insufficient anti-tumor immunity rendered by Thelpers, allows malignant CLL cells to go unnoticed by the cellular immune system.


Apoptosis, Bcl-2, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, VEGF-R, Chromosomal Aberrations, Nurse-Like Cells


Department of Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine, 150 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111, USA.

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