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Blood. 2010 May 20;115(20):4120-9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-10-248898. Epub 2010 Mar 15.

Pharmacologic modulation of niche accessibility via tyrosine kinase inhibition enhances marrow and thymic engraftment after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

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Pediatric Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Essential survival signals within hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) and thymic niches are mediated by receptor tyrosine kinases, which can be reversibly inhibited using clinically available drugs. We studied whether sunitinib, a multityrosine kinase inhibitor that inhibits KIT, enhances engraftment after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) in mice. Sunitinib diminished hematopoietic progenitor cell numbers, and sunitinib enhanced marrow, peripheral myeloid, and lymphoid engraftment after BMT in Rag1(-/-) mice. Sunitinib augmented HSC engraftment because recipients displayed increased myeloid and lymphoid engraftment and because sunitinib-treated recipients of purified HSCs showed enhanced engraftment of secondary hosts. However, sunitinib preferentially augmented T-cell engraftment with lesser effects on myeloid and HSC engraftment. Consistent with this, sunitinib preferentially depleted the early thymic progenitor subset in the thymus. Sunitinib did not increase engraftment in mice with deficient KIT signaling, and the pattern of more potent effects on T cell compared with HSC engraftment observed in sunitinib-treated hosts was also observed after BMT into KIT(W/Wv) mice. These results implicate KIT as a critical modulator of thymic niches. We conclude that transient, pharmacologic inhibition of KIT enhances accessibility of marrow and thymic niches, and provides a novel, noncytotoxic approach to accomplish engraftment after stem cell transplantation.

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