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Mol Cancer Res. 2008 Dec;6(12):1928-36. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-08-0142.

Hedgehog-induced survival of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells in a stromal cell microenvironment: a potential new therapeutic target.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-6395, USA.


B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) is characterized by an accumulation of neoplastic B cells due to their resistance to apoptosis and increased survival. Among various factors, the tumor microenvironment is known to play a role in the regulation of cell proliferation and survival of many cancers. However, it remains unclear how the tumor microenvironment contributes to the increased survival of B-CLL cells. Therefore, we studied the influence of bone marrow stromal cell-induced hedgehog (Hh) signaling on the survival of B-CLL cells. Our results show that a Hh signaling inhibitor, cyclopamine, inhibits bone marrow stromal cell-induced survival of B-CLL cells, suggesting a role for Hh signaling in the survival of B-CLL cells. Furthermore, gene expression profiling of primary B-CLL cells (n = 48) indicates that the expression of Hh signaling molecules, such as GLI1, GLI2, SUFU, and BCL2, is significantly increased and correlates with disease progression of B-CLL patients with clinical outcome. In addition, SUFU and GLI1 transcripts, as determined by real-time PCR, are significantly overexpressed and correlate with adverse indicators of clinical outcome in B-CLL patients, such as cytogenetics or CD38 expression. Furthermore, selective down-regulation of GLI1 by antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (GLI1-ASO) results in decreased BCL2 expression and cell survival, suggesting that GLI1 may regulate BCL2 and, thereby, modulate cell survival in B-CLL. In addition, there was significantly increased apoptosis of B-CLL cells when cultured in the presence of GLI1-ASO and fludarabine. Together, these results reveal that Hh signaling is important in the pathogenesis of B-CLL and, hence, may be a potential therapeutic target.

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