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Blood. 2013 Jun 20;121(25):5045-54. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-07-439109. Epub 2013 May 9.

Adult T-cell leukemia cells overexpress Wnt5a and promote osteoclast differentiation.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Center for Viral Oncology, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is etiologically linked to infection with the human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus type 1 (HTLV-I). ATL is classified into 4 distinct clinical diseases: acute, lymphoma, chronic, and smoldering. Acute ATL is the most aggressive form, representing 60% of cases and has a 4-year survival of < 5%. A frequent complication and cause of death in acute ATL patients is the presence of lytic bone lesions and hypercalcemia. We analyzed the Wnt/β-catenin pathway because of its common role in cancer and bone remodeling. Our study demonstrated that ATL cells do not express high levels of β-catenin but displayed high levels of LEF-1/TCF genes along with elevated levels of β-catenin (LEF-1/TCF target genes) responsive genes. By profiling Wnt gene expression, we discovered that ATL patient leukemia cells shifted expression toward the noncanonical Wnt pathway. Interestingly, ATL cells overexpressed the osteolytic-associated genes-Wnt5a, PTHLH, and RANKL. We further show that Wnt5a secreted by ATL cells favors osteoclast differentiation and expression of RANK. Our results suggest that Wnt5a is a major contributing factor to the increase in osteolytic bone lesions and hypercalcemia found in ATL patients. Anti-Wnt5a therapy may prevent or reduce osteolytic lesions found in ATL patients and improve therapy outcome.

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