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Cancer Biol Ther. 2003 Jan-Feb;2(1):103-8.

Imatinib (ST1571) provides only limited selectivity for CML cells and treatment might be complicated by silent BCR-ABL genes.

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Tulane Cancer Center and Humon Genetics Program, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, Lousiana 70112, USA.


Very promising results have been obtained in clinical trials on chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia (CP-CML) patients treated with imatinib mesylate (IM; Gleevecr, STI571), a BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor. However, we found that IM caused considerable inhibition of normal hematopoietic progenitor cells upon treating control bone marrow (BM) cultures. In vitro IM treatment gave a decrease in the yield and size of colonies from BM of untreated CP-CML patients that was only two to three times that from the normal samples. Moreover, about 30% of myeloid progenitors (CFU-GM) from CML BM still formed colonies in the presence of IM, most of which had BCR-ABL RNA. About half of these treated colonies also displayed methylation of the internal ABL Pa promoter, a CML-specific epigenetic alteration, which was used in this study as a marker for BCR-ABL translocation-containing cells. However, ~5-8% of the treated or the untreated CML BM-derived colonies had no detectable BCR-ABL RNA by two or three rounds of RT-PCR despite being positive for the internal standard RNA and displaying hallmarks of CML, either t(9;22)(q34;ql 1) or ABL Pa methylation. Our results indicate that IM is only partially specific for CML progenitor cells compared to normal hematopoietic progenitor cells and suggest that some CML cells may have a silent BCR-ABL oncogene that could interfere with therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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