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Bone Marrow Res. 2012;2012:406796. doi: 10.1155/2012/406796. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Lineage switching in acute leukemias: a consequence of stem cell plasticity?

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Leukemia Clinic, Mexican Children's Hospital Federico Gómez, 06720 Mexico City, DF, Mexico.


Acute leukemias are the most common cancer in childhood and characterized by the uncontrolled production of hematopoietic precursor cells of the lymphoid or myeloid series within the bone marrow. Even when a relatively high efficiency of therapeutic agents has increased the overall survival rates in the last years, factors such as cell lineage switching and the rise of mixed lineages at relapses often change the prognosis of the illness. During lineage switching, conversions from lymphoblastic leukemia to myeloid leukemia, or vice versa, are recorded. The central mechanisms involved in these phenomena remain undefined, but recent studies suggest that lineage commitment of plastic hematopoietic progenitors may be multidirectional and reversible upon specific signals provided by both intrinsic and environmental cues. In this paper, we focus on the current knowledge about cell heterogeneity and the lineage switch resulting from leukemic cells plasticity. A number of hypothetical mechanisms that may inspire changes in cell fate decisions are highlighted. Understanding the plasticity of leukemia initiating cells might be fundamental to unravel the pathogenesis of lineage switch in acute leukemias and will illuminate the importance of a flexible hematopoietic development.

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