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Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2011;2011:96-103. doi: 10.1182/asheducation-2011.1.96.

Nurture versus nature: the microenvironment in chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77230, USA.


Intrinsic factors such as genetic lesions, anti-apoptotic proteins, and aberrant signaling networks within leukemia cells have long been the main focus of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) research. However, over the past decade, it became increasingly clear that external signals from the leukemia microenvironment make pivotal contributions to disease progression in CLL and other B-cell malignancies. Consequently, increasing emphasis is now placed on exploring and targeting the CLL microenvironment. This review highlights critical cellular and molecular pathways of CLL-microenvironment cross-talk. In vitro and in vivo models for studying the CLL microenvironment are discussed, along with their use in searching for therapeutic targets and in drug testing. Clinically, CXCR4 antagonists and small-molecule antagonists of B cell receptor (BCR)-associated kinases (spleen tyrosine kinase [Syk], Bruton's tyrosine kinase [Btk], and PI3Kδ) are the most advanced drugs for targeting specific interactions between CLL cells and the miocroenvironment. Preclinical and first clinical evidence suggests that high-risk CLL patients can particularly benefit from these alternative agents. These findings indicate that interplay between leukemia-inherent and environmental factors, nature and nurture determines disease progression in CLL.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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