Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of blood cancer (leukemia) in the Western world, affecting approximately 1.2% of all cancer patients. This type of cancer starts with the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) that are produced in the bone marrow.
CLL is characterized by the proliferation of abnormal lymphocytes (B cells) that fail to mature and grow out of control. These abnormal cells accumulate in the bone marrow and lymph nodes, taking the place of other healthy cell types and impeding their normal development.
Finding the most suitable therapy for each patient poses a challenge due to the clinical and molecular heterogeneity of this disease, with some patients facing slow disease progression, whereas others face rapid progression and require quick medical response.
The cancer drug ibrutinib, a Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, has remarkable efficacy in most patients with CLL. It is becoming the standard of care for most patients requiring treatment due to its clinical efficacy and mostly tolerable side effects.
However, it does not cure the disease, and patients must undergo prolonged periods of treatment. Christoph Bock and his group at CeMM investigated the molecular program with which CLL cells and other immune cells response to ibrutinib treatment in patients with CLL.
Their goal was to learn the epigenetic and transcriptional patterns that predict how swiftly the treatment is having an effect on the CLL cells and how long it takes for the disease to respond in each individual patient.
In previous studies, scientists had investigated only specific aspects of the molecular response to ibrutinib, focusing largely on genetic drug resistance or the transcriptome response of cancer cells.
For the first time, CeMM researchers provide a comprehensive genome-scale, time-resolved analysis of the regulatory response to this drug in primary patient samples.
The authors used a combination of immunophenotyping, single-cell transcriptome profiling (scRNA-seq) and chromatin mapping (ATAC-seq) to jointly monitor the activity, regulation and expression of the CLL cells and other cell types of the immune system. Related Stories
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