In Vitro Drug Sensitivity and Apoptosis in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Sammanfattning: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a heterogeneous malignancy displaying varying clinical outcome, where molecular markers today can divide patients into prognostic subgroups. Despite the introduction of new agents for treatment, remissions are usually not sustained in CLL and resistance towards treatment can partly be explained by aberrant apoptosis. The aim of this thesis was to find new drugs for CLL patients resistant to conventional therapy and to analyze genes involved in apoptosis within different prognostic subgroups.In paper I-II, the in vitro activity of substances was investigated using the fluorometric microculture cytotoxicity assay (FMCA). When evaluating rapamycin (paper I), an inhibitor of mTOR, in 97 tumor samples from different entities, CLL was found to be one of the most sensitive tumor types. Combination experiments on patient CLL cells indicated that rapamycin acted synergistically with the CLL drugs vincristine and chlorambucil.An investigation of 20 anti-cancer agents in cells from 40 CLL patients (paper II) revealed that prednisolone and rolipram displayed high activity in poor-prognostic patients, in particular IGHV unmutated CLL. Furthermore, when used in combination these agents were found to produce a synergistic effect.In paper III, the anti-apoptotic BCL2 family member BFL1 was evaluated in 37 CLL cases. Levels of BFL1 were higher in fludarabine-resistant patients compared to fludarabine-sensitive patients. In addition, the high expression of BFL1 inversely correlated to fludarabine-induced apoptosis in CLL cells.A single nucleotide polymorphism in the anti-apoptotic BCL2 gene (-938C>A) has been suggested as a novel poor-prognostic marker in CLL. In paper IV, we investigated this BCL2 polymorphism in 268 CLL patients and correlated genotypes to clinical data. However, no association could be confirmed between this polymorphism and clinical outcome or established prognostic markers.In conclusion, this thesis has shown that rapamycin is a potential drug for treatment in CLL. Furthermore, prednisolone and rolipram were identified as interesting candidates for treatment of poor-prognostic patients. Finally, the anti-apoptotic protein BFL1 may contribute to chemoresistance and hence represents a potential therapeutic target in CLL, whereas from our data, the BCL2 -938C>A polymorphism does not appear to have any prognostic significance.
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