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Emerging role of BCR signaling inhibitors in immunomodulation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Kamira Maharaj, Eva Sahakian and Javier Pinilla-Ibarz

Abstract

Approved therapies that target the B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway, such as ibrutinib and idelalisib, are known to show activity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) via their direct effects on crucial survival pathways in malignant B cells. However, these therapies also have effects on T cells in CLL by mediating toxicity and possibly controlling disease. By focusing on the effects of BCR signaling inhibitors on the T-cell compartment, we may gain new insights into the comprehensive biological outcomes of systemic treatment to further understand mechanisms of drug efficacy, predict the toxicity or adverse events, and identify novel combinatorial therapies. Here, we review T-cell abnormalities in preclinical models and patient samples, finding that CLL T cells orchestrate immune dysfunction and immune-related complications. We then continue to address the effects of clinically available small molecule BCR signaling inhibitors on the immune cells, especially T cells, in the context of concomitant immune-mediated adverse events and implications for future treatment strategies. Our review suggests potentially novel mechanisms of action related to BCR inhibitors, providing a rationale to extend their use to other cancers and autoimmune disorders.

  • Submitted March 22, 2017.
  • Accepted August 18, 2017.
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