Linkage of proliferative and maturational abnormalities in chronic myelogenous leukemia and relevance to treatment
Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive
Despite recent advances in our understanding of the molecular and biological abnormalities in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) this new knowledge has not yet led to significant improvements in treatment. We have reviewed what is known and still unknown about the molecular and biological abnormalities in CML that may be relevant to developing improved, more selective treatment. CML originates in a multipotential stem cell due to its acquiring a highly consistent specific chromosomal translocation between chromosomes 9 and 22; this results in a fused bcr/abl gene and an abnormal 210 kDa fusion protein which has increased intrinsic protein tyrosine kinase activity compared to the normal c-abl protein. It is still unknown how p210bcr-abl alters the signal transduction pathways, but the main biological abnormality is discordant or asynchronous maturation, with the cytoplasm generally maturing more rapidly than the nucleus. The major expansion of the CML population takes place in the intermediate and later maturation compartments rather than in the stem cell or early progenitor cell compartments. The expansion occurs slowly, probably taking several years to reach a trillion or more cells, at which time clinical symptoms begin to develop. The maturing leukemic progenitors do not have an increased proliferative rate, but they undergo one or more additional divisions and also live longer than comparable normal progenitors. The earliest CML blast cell population we have been able to study has reduced ultimate proliferative capacity compared to a comparable primitive normal blast cell population. Although no quantitative stem cell assay is available, indirect evidence suggests that the CML stem cells' biological behavior may be relatively unaffected or deviate only slightly from normal. The bcr/abl gene and its fusion protein are promising targets for development of novel specific therapies, but before this can be accomplished it will be necessary to understand more completely the molecular and biochemical abnormalities and to correlate them with the biological manifestations of the disease.