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J Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Aug;4(4):207-20. doi: 10.1093/jmcb/mjs010. Epub 2012 Mar 31.

Imatinib triggers mesenchymal-like conversion of CML cells associated with increased aggressiveness.

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INSERM U1065, Team: Cell Death, Differentiation, Inflammation and Cancer, Nice, France.


Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cytogenetic disorder resulting from the expression of p210BCR-ABL. Imatinib, an inhibitor of BCR-ABL, has emerged as the leading compound to treat CML patients. Despite encouraging clinical results, resistance to imatinib represents a major drawback for therapy, as a substantial proportion of patients are refractory to this treatment. Recent publications have described the existence of a small cancer cell population with the potential to exhibit the phenotypic switch responsible for chemoresistance. To investigate the existence of such a chemoresistant cellular subpopulation in CML, we used a two-step approach of pulse and continuous selection by imatinib in different CML cell lines that allowed the emergence of a subpopulation of adherent cells (IM-R Adh) displaying an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-like phenotype. Overexpression of several EMT markers was observed in this CML subpopulation, as well as in CD34(+) CML primary cells from patients who responded poorly to imatinib treatment. In response to imatinib, this CD44(high)/CD24(low) IM-R Adh subpopulation exhibited increased adhesion, transmigration and invasion in vitro and in vivo through specific overexpression of the αVβ3 receptor. FAK/Akt pathway activation following integrin β3 (ITGβ3) engagement mediated the migration and invasion of IM-R Adh cells, whereas persistent activation of ERK counteracted BCR-ABL inhibition by imatinib, promoting cell adhesion-mediated resistance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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