Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of human leukemia. It affects individuals over 50 years of age and it manifests either as an indolent or an aggressive disease. Often, with time, the indolent disease progresses to the aggressive form. Thus, the clinical approach to the disease is "wait and watch", since it may be counterproductive to treat patients with indolent CLL with aggressive chemo/immunotherapy. CLL is characterized by consistent chromosomal alterations, the most common of which is a deletion at 13q14 that is observed by cytogenetics in over 50% of cases. We have shown that this deletion consistently involves two microRNA genes, miR-15a and miR-16-1, which are knocked out or down in approximately 70% of CLL patients. These microRNAs target directly BCL2 and indirectly MCL1, two genes dysregulated in CLL. We also found that loss of miR-15a and 16-1 is associated with the development of the indolent form of the disease. We have also cloned the TCL1 gene responsible for the development of prolymphocytic T cell leukemia through t(14;14)(q11;q32) translocations or inv(14)(q11;32) inversions and then shown that this gene is overexpressed in the aggressive form of human CLL. Recently, we have constructed a TCL1 transgenic mouse model that overexpresses the human TCL1 gene in B cells. TCL1 transgenic mice develop the aggressive form of CLL that resembles quite closely, if not exactly, the human form of the disease. We also developed two mouse models for the indolent form of the disease by taking advantage of our understanding of microRNA dysregulation in CLL. We propose to use our mouse models to identify most of the genes involved in the multistep process responsible for the pathogenesis of human CLL, including familial CLL. The results of these studies will be compared to those in human CLLs. By taking advantage of our new mouse models, we also propose to develop novel microRNA-based therapies for CLL by targeting the expression of critical oncogenes.
We propose to identify genetic and epigenetic changes responsible for the progression of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common human leukemia. To achieve our goal, we have developed mouse CLL models that recapitulate the changes observed in human CLL. We propose to use these mouse models to identify the critical changes responsible for CLL progression and to develop novel targeted therapies for this incurable disease.
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