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Concept: Acute myeloid leukemia

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Background Patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and a FLT3 mutation have poor outcomes. We conducted a phase 3 trial to determine whether the addition of midostaurin - an oral multitargeted kinase inhibitor that is active in patients with a FLT3 mutation - to standard chemotherapy would prolong overall survival in this population. Methods We screened 3277 patients, 18 to 59 years of age, who had newly diagnosed AML for FLT3 mutations. Patients were randomly assigned to receive standard chemotherapy (induction therapy with daunorubicin and cytarabine and consolidation therapy with high-dose cytarabine) plus either midostaurin or placebo; those who were in remission after consolidation therapy entered a maintenance phase in which they received either midostaurin or placebo. Randomization was stratified according to subtype of FLT3 mutation: point mutation in the tyrosine kinase domain (TKD) or internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation with either a high ratio (>0.7) or a low ratio (0.05 to 0.7) of mutant to wild-type alleles (ITD [high] and ITD [low], respectively). Allogeneic transplantation was allowed. The primary end point was overall survival. Results A total of 717 patients underwent randomization; 360 were assigned to the midostaurin group, and 357 to the placebo group. The FLT3 subtype was ITD (high) in 214 patients, ITD (low) in 341 patients, and TKD in 162 patients. The treatment groups were well balanced with respect to age, race, FLT3 subtype, cytogenetic risk, and blood counts but not with respect to sex (51.7% in the midostaurin group vs. 59.4% in the placebo group were women, P=0.04). Overall survival was significantly longer in the midostaurin group than in the placebo group (hazard ratio for death, 0.78; one-sided P=0.009), as was event-free survival (hazard ratio for event or death, 0.78; one-sided P=0.002). In both the primary analysis and an analysis in which data for patients who underwent transplantation were censored, the benefit of midostaurin was consistent across all FLT3 subtypes. The rate of severe adverse events was similar in the two groups. Conclusions The addition of the multitargeted kinase inhibitor midostaurin to standard chemotherapy significantly prolonged overall and event-free survival among patients with AML and a FLT3 mutation. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute and Novartis; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00651261 .).

Concepts: Gene, Clinical trial, Cancer, Mutation, Medical terms, Protein kinase, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia

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The clinical importance of erythroid predominance in bone marrow of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is controversial. These cases represent a heterogeneous group of diseases that historically have been classified into different categories. We studied 313 AML patients and specifically compared the clinical, cytogenetic, and molecular features of cases of AML with erythroid predominance, arbitrarily defined as ≥50% erythroid precursors, to AML cases without erythroid predominance. We also assessed 51 patients with a high-grade myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), refractory anemia with excess blasts (RAEB). All neoplasms were classified according to the World Health Organization classification. With the exception of therapy-related AML/MDS, the presence of erythroid predominance in variously classified categories of AML was associated with a survival advantage. In addition, AML with erythroid predominance had a lower frequency of cytogenetic abnormalities as well as a lower frequency of mutations involving NPM1, NRAS and FLT3 as compared with AML without erythroid predominance. We conclude that the clinical, cytogenetic, and molecular features of AML with erythroid predominance in the non-therapy-related setting are much closer to those of a high-grade myelodysplastic syndrome than they are to other types of AML.

Concepts: Cancer, Bone marrow, Hematology, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Myelodysplastic syndrome, Refractory anemia

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The purpose of this study was to determine if there is an increased risk of acute leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) in persons with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). We utilized a large population-based cohort of individuals systematically screened for the presence or absence of MGUS. MGUS status was then linked to the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and MDS. 17 315 patients age 50 and older (605 MGUS and 16 710 controls) with a cumulative 435 021 person-years of follow-up were studied. MGUS patients had a significantly higher risk of developing MDS compared with controls, hazard ratio 2.4 (95%CI 1.08,5.32), P=0.031. There was no statistically significant increase in the risk of AML (RR 1.36 P=0.675), and no increased risk of developing ALL.Leukemia accepted article preview online, 5 February 2013; doi:10.1038/leu.2013.34.

Concepts: Hematology, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, Myelodysplastic syndrome, French-American-British classification

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BackgroundRituximab-hyper-CVAD alternating with rituximab-high-dose methotrexate and cytarabine is a commonly utilized regimen in the United States for mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) based on phase II single institutional data. To confirm the clinical efficacy of this regimen and determine its feasibility in a multicenter study that includes both academic and community-based practices, a phase II study of this regimen was conducted by SWOG.Patients and methodsForty-nine patients with advanced stage, previously untreated MCL were eligible. The median age was 57.4 years (35-69.8 years).ResultsNineteen patients (39%) did not complete the full scheduled course of treatment due to toxicity. There was one treatment-related death and two cases of secondary myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). There were 10 episodes of grade 3 febrile neutropenia, 19 episodes of grade 3 and 1 episode of grade 4 infection. With a median follow-up of 4.8 years, the median progression-free survival was 4.8 years (5.5 years for those ≤65 years) and the median overall survival (OS) was 6.8 years.ConclusionsAlthough this regimen is toxic, it is active for patients ≤65 years of age and can be given both at academic centers and in experienced community centers.

Concepts: Clinical trial, United States, Chemotherapy, Acute myeloid leukemia, Chemotherapy regimens, Fever, Mantle cell lymphoma, Myelodysplastic syndrome

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Up to 30% of adults with acute myeloid leukemia fail to achieve a complete remission after induction chemotherapy - termed primary refractory acute myeloid leukemia. There is no universally agreed definition of primary refractory disease, nor have the optimal treatment modalities been defined. We studied 8907 patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia and examined outcomes in patients with refractory disease defined using differing criteria which have previously been proposed. These included failure to achieve complete remission after one cycle of induction chemotherapy (RES), less than a 50% reduction in blast numbers with >15% residual blasts after one cycle of induction chemotherapy (REF1 ) and failure to achieve complete remission after two courses of induction chemotherapy (REF2). 5 year overall survival was decreased in patients fulfilling any criteria for refractory disease compared with patients achieving a complete remission after one cycle of induction chemotherapy: 9% and 8% in patients with REF1 and REF 2 versus 40% (p <0.0001). Allogeneic stem cell transplantation improved survival in the REF1 (HR 0.58 (0.46-0.74), p=0.00001) and REF2 (HR 0.55 (0.41-0.74), p=0.0001) cohorts. Utilization of REF1 criteria permits the early identification of patients whose outcome after one course of induction chemotherapy is very poor and informs a novel definition of primary refractory acute myeloid leukemia. Furthermore, these data demonstrate that allogeneic stem cell transplantation represents an effective therapeutic modality in selected patients with primary refractory acute myeloid leukaemia.

Concepts: Cancer, Bone marrow, Chemotherapy, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Modality, Acute erythroid leukemia

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Variants in ETV6, which encodes a transcription repressor of the E26 transformation-specific family, have recently been reported to be responsible for inherited thrombocytopenia and hematologic malignancy. We sequenced the DNA from cases with unexplained dominant thrombocytopenia and identified six likely pathogenic variants in ETV6, of which five are novel. We observed low repressive activity of all tested ETV6 variants and variants located in the E26 transformation-specific binding domain (encoding p.A377T, p.Y401N) led to reduced binding to co-repressors. We also observed large expansion of CFU-MKs derived from variant carriers and reduced proplatelet formation with abnormal cytoskeletal organization. The defect in proplatelet formation was also observed in control CD34+ cell-derived megakaryocytes transduced with lentiviral particles encoding mutant ETV6. Reduced expression levels of key regulators of the actin cytoskeleton Cdc42 and RhoA were measured. Moreover, changes in the actin structures are typically accompanied by a rounder platelet shape with a highly heterogeneous size, decreased platelet arachidonic response, spreading and retarded clot retraction in ETV6 deficient platelets. Elevated numbers of circulating CD34+ cells were found in p.P214L and p.Y401N carriers, and two patients from different families suffered from refractory anemia with excess blasts while one patient from a third family was successfully treated for acute myeloid leukemia. Overall, our study provides novel insights into the role of ETV6 as a driver of cytoskeletal regulatory gene expression during platelet production and the impact of variants resulting in platelets with altered size, shape and function and potentially also in changes in circulating progenitor levels.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Platelet, Leukemia, Cytoskeleton, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Thrombocytopenia

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Relapses in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) are a result of quiescent leukemic stem cells (LSCs) in marrow stromal niches, where they resist chemotherapy. LSCs employ CXCL12/CXCR4 to home toward protective marrow niches. Heparin disrupts CXCL12-mediated sequestration of cells in the marrow. CX-01 is a low-anticoagulant heparin derivative. In this pilot study, we combined CX-01 with chemotherapy for the treatment of AML. Induction consisted of cytarabine and idarubicin (7 + 3) with CX-01. Twelve patients were enrolled (median age, 56 years; 3 women). Three, 5, and 4 patients had good-, intermediate-, and poor-risk disease, respectively. Day 14 bone marrows were available on 11 patients and were aplastic in all without detectable leukemia. Eleven patients (92%) had morphologic complete remission after 1 induction (CR1). Eight patients were alive at a median follow-up of 24 months (4 patients in CR1). Three patients received an allogeneic stem cell transplant in CR1. Median disease-free survival was 14.8 months. Median overall survival was not attained at the maximum follow-up time of 29.4 months. No CX-01-associated serious adverse events occurred. Median day to an untransfused platelet count of at least 20 × 109/L was 21. CX-01 is well tolerated when combined with intensive therapy for AML and appears associated with enhanced count recovery and treatment efficacy.

Concepts: Bone marrow, Cure, Chemotherapy, Leukemia, Organ transplant, Acute myeloid leukemia, Blood disorders, Myeloid sarcoma

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Bone marrow vascular niches sustain hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and are drastically remodeled in leukemia to support pathological functions. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells produce angiogenic factors, which likely contribute to this remodeling, but anti-angiogenic therapies do not improve AML patient outcomes. Using intravital microscopy, we found that AML progression leads to differential remodeling of vasculature in central and endosteal bone marrow regions. Endosteal AML cells produce pro-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic cytokines and gradually degrade endosteal endothelium, stromal cells, and osteoblastic cells, whereas central marrow remains vascularized and splenic vascular niches expand. Remodeled endosteal regions have reduced capacity to support non-leukemic HSCs, correlating with loss of normal hematopoiesis. Preserving endosteal endothelium with the small molecule deferoxamine or a genetic approach rescues HSCs loss, promotes chemotherapeutic efficacy, and enhances survival. These findings suggest that preventing degradation of the endosteal vasculature may improve current paradigms for treating AML.

Concepts: Angiogenesis, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Hematology, Leukemia, Acute myeloid leukemia, Hematopoietic stem cell

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The BCL-2 family protein BAX is a central mediator of apoptosis. Overexpression of anti-apoptotic BCL-2 proteins contributes to tumor development and resistance to therapy by suppressing BAX and its activators. We report the discovery of BTSA1, a pharmacologically optimized BAX activator that binds with high affinity and specificity to the N-terminal activation site and induces conformational changes to BAX leading to BAX-mediated apoptosis. BTSA1-induced BAX activation effectively promotes apoptosis in leukemia cell lines and patient samples while sparing healthy cells. BAX expression levels and cytosolic conformation regulate sensitivity to BTSA1. BTSA1 potently suppressed human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) xenografts and increased host survival without toxicity. This study provides proof-of-concept for direct BAX activation as a treatment strategy in AML.

Concepts: Protein, Gene expression, Cell, Apoptosis, Acute myeloid leukemia, Bcl-2, BH3 interacting domain death agonist, Bcl-2-associated death promoter