Publications by authors named "Nicoletta Testoni"

90 Publications

14q32 rearrangements deregulating BCL11B mark a distinct subgroup of T-lymphoid and myeloid immature acute leukemia.

Blood 2021 09;138(9):773-784

Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.

Acute leukemias (ALs) of ambiguous lineage are a heterogeneous group of high-risk leukemias characterized by coexpression of myeloid and lymphoid markers. In this study, we identified a distinct subgroup of immature acute leukemias characterized by a broadly variable phenotype, covering acute myeloid leukemia (AML, M0 or M1), T/myeloid mixed-phenotype acute leukemia (T/M MPAL), and early T-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ETP-ALL). Rearrangements at 14q32/BCL11B are the cytogenetic hallmark of this entity. In our screening of 915 hematological malignancies, there were 202 AML and 333 T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALL: 58, ETP; 178, non-ETP; 8, T/M MPAL; 89, not otherwise specified). We identified 20 cases of immature leukemias (4% of AML and 3.6% of T-ALL), harboring 4 types of 14q32/BCL11B translocations: t(2,14)(q22.3;q32) (n = 7), t(6;14)(q25.3;q32) (n = 9), t(7;14)(q21.2;q32) (n = 2), and t(8;14)(q24.2;q32) (n = 2). The t(2;14) produced a ZEB2-BCL11B fusion transcript, whereas the other 3 rearrangements displaced transcriptionally active enhancer sequences close to BCL11B without producing fusion genes. All translocations resulted in the activation of BCL11B, a regulator of T-cell differentiation associated with transcriptional corepressor complexes in mammalian cells. The expression of BCL11B behaved as a disease biomarker that was present at diagnosis, but not in remission. Deregulation of BCL11B co-occurred with variants at FLT3 and at epigenetic modulators, most frequently the DNMT3A, TET2, and/or WT1 genes. Transcriptome analysis identified a specific expression signature, with significant downregulation of BCL11B targets, and clearly separating BCL11B AL from AML, T-ALL, and ETP-ALL. Remarkably, an ex vivo drug-sensitivity profile identified a panel of compounds with effective antileukemic activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood.2020010510DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8513670PMC
September 2021

Safety profile and impact on survival of tyrosine kinase inhibitors versus conventional therapy in relapse or refractory FLT3 positive acute myeloid leukemia patients.

Leuk Res 2021 02 25;101:106497. Epub 2020 Dec 25.

Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Bologna, via Albertoni 15, Bologna, Italy. Electronic address:

Relapsed or refractory (R/R) acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has a poor prognosis, and new therapies are a major clinical need. When mutated, FLT3 drives neoplastic cell proliferation. New drugs (i.e., tyrosine kinase inhibitors, TKIs) showed effectiveness in FLT3-AML and promise to change disease history and outcome. We evaluated the benefit conferred by TKIs in terms of survival, burden of complications and surrogate endpoint of quality of life in a retrospective cohort of 49 FLT3 positive, R/R AML patients. Patients who received TKIs were compared to those treated with conventional chemotherapy. Treatment with TKIs conferred a better OS and wea associated with a lower burden and severity of adverse events. Importantly, patients who received TKIs showed reduced time of hospitalization. In conclusion, treatment with TKI in R/R FLT3-AML was related to a better survival, less and milder AEs, and shorter hospitalization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leukres.2020.106497DOI Listing
February 2021

Bortezomib, thalidomide, and dexamethasone followed by double autologous haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (GIMEMA-MMY-3006): long-term follow-up analysis of a randomised phase 3, open-label study.

Lancet Haematol 2020 Dec;7(12):e861-e873

Department of Cell Therapy and Hematology, San Bortolo Hospital, Vicenza, Italy.

Background: The phase 3 GIMEMA-MMY-3006 trial, which compared bortezomib, thalidomide, and dexamethasone (VTD) combination therapy with thalidomide and dexamethasone (TD) as induction therapy before and consolidation therapy after double autologous haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, showed the superiority of the triplet regimen over the doublet in terms of increased complete response rate and improved progression-free survival. We report the results from the final analysis of the study.

Methods: In this randomised, open-label, phase 3 study, patients aged 18-65 years with previously untreated symptomatic multiple myeloma and a Karnofsky Performance Status of 60% or higher were enrolled at 73 centres in Italy. Patients were randomised (1:1) by a web-based system to receive three 21-day cycles of thalidomide (100 mg daily orally for the first 14 days and 200 mg daily thereafter) plus dexamethasone (total 320 mg per cycle; 40 mg on days 1-2, 4-5, 8-9, and 11-12 in the VTD regimen, and 40 mg on days 1-4 and 9-12 in the TD regimen), either alone (TD group) or with bortezomib (1·3 mg/m intravenously on days 1, 4, 8, and 11; VTD group). After double autologous HSCT, patients received two 35-day cycles of either the VTD or TD regimen, according to random assignment, as consolidation therapy. The primary outcome was the rate of complete response and near complete response after induction (already reported). In this updated analysis we assessed long-term progression-free survival and overall survival (secondary endpoints of the study) with an extended 10-year median follow-up, and analysed the variables influencing survival. Analysis was by intention to treat. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01134484.

Findings: Between May 10, 2006, and April 30, 2008, 480 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to receive VTD (241 patients) or TD (239 patients). Six patients withdrew consent before start of treatment. 236 (99 [42%] women) in the VTD group and 238 (102 [43%] women) in the TD group were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. The data cutoff date for this analysis was May 31, 2018. Median follow-up for surviving patients was 124·1 months (IQR 117·2-131·7). The 10-year progression-free survival estimate for patients in the VTD group was 34% (95% CI 28-41) compared with 17% (13-23) for the TD group (hazard ratio [HR] 0·62 [95% CI 0·50-0·77]; p<0·0001). 60% (95% CI 54-67) of patients in the VTD group were alive at 10 years versus 46% (40-54) of patients in the TD group (HR 0·68 [95% CI 0·51-0·90]; p=0·0068). VTD was an independent predictor of improved progression-free survival (HR 0·60 [95% CI 0·48-0·76]; p<0·0001) and overall survival (HR 0·68 [0·50-0·91]; p=0·010). The incidence of second primary malignancies per 100 person-years was 0·87 (95% CI 0·49-1·44) in the VTD group compared with 1·41 (0·88-2·13) in the TD group.

Interpretation: Incorporation of VTD into double autologous HSCT resulted in clinically meaningful improvements in long-term progression-free survival and overall survival, confirming that a regimen including bortezomib and an immunomodulatory drug is the gold standard treatment for patients with newly diagnosed myeloma who are fit for high-dose chemotherapy.

Funding: Seràgnoli Institute of Haematology, University of Bologna, and BolognAIL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2352-3026(20)30323-9DOI Listing
December 2020

MEC (mitoxantrone, etoposide, and cytarabine) induces complete remission and is an effective bridge to transplant in acute myeloid leukemia.

Eur J Haematol 2020 Jul 7;105(1):47-55. Epub 2020 Apr 7.

Department of Hematology and Oncology, Institute of Hematology L. e A. Seràgnoli, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria S. Orsola Malpighi, Bologna, Italy.

Introduction: Clinical response and chemosensitivity of relapse or refractory AML patients were evaluated after rescue and bridge-to-transplant MEC (mitoxantrone, etoposide, and cytarabine) regimen.

Methods And Patients: Fifty-five consecutive AML patients were treated with MEC from 2009 to 2018. Chemosensitivity was evaluated by WT1 quantification.

Results: 27/55 patients (49.1%) had AML resistant to induction and 28/55 patients (50.9%) had AML relapse. 25/55 patients (45.5%) achieved a CR after one course of MEC, and 12 patients (21.8%) achieved WT1 negativity. In 12 patients, a second MEC was administered. Four out of 12 patients improved significantly their response with the 2nd MEC. MEC was an effective bridge to transplant, 32/55 patients (58.2%) received an allogenic stem cell transplant. Median overall survival (OS) from MEC was 455 days (95% CI 307-602 days.); patient with WT1 negative CR had the best OS (P<.000).

Conclusion: WT1 is a useful marker of chemosensitivity after MEC as rescue and bridge-to-transplant therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejh.13406DOI Listing
July 2020

Maintenance therapy with bortezomib and dexamethasone after autotransplantation for high-risk multiple myeloma.

Bone Marrow Transplant 2020 09 26;55(9):1865-1867. Epub 2020 Feb 26.

Seràgnoli Institute of Hematology, Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, Bologna University School of Medicine, S. Orsola Malpighi Hospital, Bologna, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41409-020-0844-2DOI Listing
September 2020

Novel and Rare Fusion Transcripts Involving Transcription Factors and Tumor Suppressor Genes in Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Cancers (Basel) 2019 Dec 5;11(12). Epub 2019 Dec 5.

Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori (IRST) IRCCS, 47014 Meldola (FC), Italy.

Approximately 18% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cases express a fusion transcript. However, few fusions are recurrent across AML and the identification of these rare chimeras is of interest to characterize AML patients. Here, we studied the transcriptome of 8 adult AML patients with poorly described chromosomal translocation(s), with the aim of identifying novel and rare fusion transcripts. We integrated RNA-sequencing data with multiple approaches including computational analysis, Sanger sequencing, fluorescence in situ hybridization and in vitro studies to assess the oncogenic potential of the chimera. We detected 7 different fusions with partner genes involving transcription factors (, ), tumor suppressors (, , ) and rearrangements associated with the loss of (, ). Notably, rearrangements co-occurred with mutations and were associated with a poorly differentiated or mixed phenotype leukemia. Although the fusion alone did not transform murine c-Kit+ bone marrow cells, 45.4% of 14q32 non-rearranged AML cases were also BCL11B-positive, suggesting a more general and complex mechanism of leukemogenesis associated with BCL11B expression. Overall, by combining different approaches, we described rare fusion events contributing to the complexity of AML and we linked the expression of some chimeras to genomic alterations hitting known genes in AML.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers11121951DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6966504PMC
December 2019

Aneuploid acute myeloid leukemia exhibits a signature of genomic alterations in the cell cycle and protein degradation machinery.

Cancer 2019 03 27;125(5):712-725. Epub 2018 Nov 27.

Munich Leukemia Laboratory, Munich, Germany.

Background: Aneuploidy occurs in more than 20% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cases and correlates with an adverse prognosis.

Methods: To understand the molecular bases of aneuploid acute myeloid leukemia (A-AML), this study examined the genomic profile in 42 A-AML cases and 35 euploid acute myeloid leukemia (E-AML) cases.

Results: A-AML was characterized by increased genomic complexity based on exonic variants (an average of 26 somatic mutations per sample vs 15 for E-AML). The integration of exome, copy number, and gene expression data revealed alterations in genes involved in DNA repair (eg, SLX4IP, RINT1, HINT1, and ATR) and the cell cycle (eg, MCM2, MCM4, MCM5, MCM7, MCM8, MCM10, UBE2C, USP37, CK2, CK3, CK4, BUB1B, NUSAP1, and E2F) in A-AML, which was associated with a 3-gene signature defined by PLK1 and CDC20 upregulation and RAD50 downregulation and with structural or functional silencing of the p53 transcriptional program. Moreover, A-AML was enriched for alterations in the protein ubiquitination and degradation pathway (eg, increased levels of UHRF1 and UBE2C and decreased UBA3 expression), response to reactive oxygen species, energy metabolism, and biosynthetic processes, which may help in facing the unbalanced protein load. E-AML was associated with BCOR/BCORL1 mutations and HOX gene overexpression.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that aneuploidy-related and leukemia-specific alterations cooperate to tolerate an abnormal chromosome number in AML, and they point to the mitotic and protein degradation machineries as potential therapeutic targets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cncr.31837DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6587451PMC
March 2019

Mesenchymal stromal cells from myelodysplastic and acute myeloid leukemia patients display in vitro reduced proliferative potential and similar capacity to support leukemia cell survival.

Stem Cell Res Ther 2018 10 25;9(1):271. Epub 2018 Oct 25.

Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, Institute of Hematology "L. & A. Seràgnoli", University of Bologna, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Policlinico S. Orsola-Malpighi Bologna, Via Massarenti 9, 40138, Bologna, Italy.

Background: Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are an essential element of the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment, playing a crucial function in regulating hematopoietic stem cell proliferation and differentiation. Recent findings have outlined a putative role for MSCs in hematological malignancy development. So far, conflicting results have been collected concerning MSC abnormalities in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). In particular, a considerable amount of evidence has been accumulated strongly supporting a permissive role of MSCs in malignancy evolution to MDS, while a potentially causative or promoting function performed by MSCs in AML has not yet been fully clarified. Here, we compared MSCs isolated from healthy, MDS, and AML subjects to investigate MSC alterations and to emphasize putative common and/or diverse features.

Methods: We isolated and expanded MSCs from AML patients (AML-MSCs) and MDS patients (MDS-MSCs), and we analyzed and compared their phenotypic and functional properties with respect to each other and versus healthy donor-derived MSCs (HD-MSCs).

Results: We found that stable MSC cultures could be easily established from HD and MDS mononuclear BM-derived cells, while a substantial fraction (25%) of AML patients failed to yield MSCs. Nevertheless, isolated MDS-MSCs and AML-MSCs, as well as HD-MSCs, contained the basic features of MSCs. Indeed, they displayed similar surface marker expression and efficient capacity to differentiate versus osteogenic and adipogenic lineage in vitro. We also proved that MDS-MSCs and AML-MSCs, analyzed by fluorescence in-situ hybridization, did not harbor leukemic cell cytogenetic abnormalities. Moreover, MDS-MSCs and AML-MSCs were similar in terms of ability to sustain AML cell viability and immune-regulatory capacity. However, we were also able to detect some differences between AML-MSCs and MDS-MSCs. Indeed, we found that the frequency of rescued MSCs was lower in the AML group than in the HD and MDS groups, suggesting that a reduced number of MSC precursors could inhabit AML BM. Instead, MDS-MSCs showed the lowest proliferative capacity, reflecting some intrinsic and particular defect.

Conclusions: Overall, our results elucidated that MDS-MSCs and AML-MSCs did not show macroscopic and/or tumor-related defects, but both displayed functional features potentially contributing to favor a leukemia-protective milieu.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13287-018-1013-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6202844PMC
October 2018

Targeting WEE1 to enhance conventional therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

J Hematol Oncol 2018 08 1;11(1):99. Epub 2018 Aug 1.

Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori (IRST) IRCCS, Meldola, Italy.

Background: Despite the recent progress that has been made in the understanding and treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the outcome is still dismal in adult ALL cases. Several studies in solid tumors identified high expression of WEE1 kinase as a poor prognostic factor and reported its role as a cancer-conserving oncogene that protects cancer cells from DNA damage. Therefore, the targeted inhibition of WEE1 kinase has emerged as a rational strategy to sensitize cancer cells to antineoplastic compounds, which we evaluate in this study.

Methods: The effectiveness of the selective WEE1 inhibitor AZD-1775 as a single agent and in combination with different antineoplastic agents in B and T cell precursor ALL (B/T-ALL) was evaluated in vitro and ex vivo studies. The efficacy of the compound in terms of cytotoxicity, induction of apoptosis, and changes in gene and protein expression was assessed using different B/T-ALL cell lines and confirmed in primary ALL blasts.

Results: We showed that WEE1 was highly expressed in adult primary ALL bone marrow and peripheral blood blasts (n = 58) compared to normal mononuclear cells isolated from the peripheral blood of healthy donors (p = 0.004). Thus, we hypothesized that WEE1 could be a rational target in ALL, and its inhibition could enhance the cytotoxicity of conventional therapies used for ALL. We evaluated the efficacy of AZD-1775 as a single agent and in combination with several antineoplastic agents, and we elucidated its mechanisms of action. AZD-1775 reduced cell viability in B/T-ALL cell lines by disrupting the G2/M checkpoint and inducing apoptosis. These findings were confirmed in human primary ALL bone marrow and peripheral blood blasts (n = 15). In both cell lines and primary leukemic cells, AZD-1775 significantly enhanced the efficacy of several tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as bosutinib, imatinib, and ponatinib, and of chemotherapeutic agents (clofarabine and doxorubicin) in terms of the reduction of cell viability, apoptosis induction, and inhibition of proliferation.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that WEE1 plays a role in ALL blast's survival and is a bona fide target for therapeutic intervention. These data support the evaluation of the therapeutic potential of AZD-1775 as chemo-sensitizer agent for the treatment of B/T-ALL.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13045-018-0641-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6090987PMC
August 2018

Chromothripsis in acute myeloid leukemia: biological features and impact on survival.

Leukemia 2018 07 23;32(7):1609-1620. Epub 2018 Feb 23.

Institute of Hematology "L. and A. Seràgnoli", University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Chromothripsis is a one-step genome-shattering catastrophe resulting from disruption of one or few chromosomes in multiple fragments and consequent random rejoining and repair. This study defines incidence of chromothripsis in 395 newly diagnosed adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients from three institutions, its impact on survival and its genomic background. SNP 6.0 or CytoscanHD Array (Affymetrix) were performed on all samples. We detected chromothripsis with a custom algorithm in 26/395 patients. Patients harboring chromothripsis had higher age (p = 0.002), ELN high risk (HR) (p < 0.001), lower white blood cell (WBC) count (p = 0.040), TP53 loss, and/or mutations (p < 0.001) while FLT3 (p = 0.025), and NPM1 (p = 0.032) mutations were mutually exclusive with chromothripsis. Chromothripsis-positive patients showed a worse overall survival (OS) (p < 0.001) compared with HR patients (p = 0.011) and a poor prognosis in a COX-HR optimal regression model. Chromothripsis presented the hallmarks of chromosome instability [i.e., TP53 alteration, 5q deletion, higher mean of copy number alteration (CNA), complex karyotype, alterations in DNA repair, and cell cycle] and focal deletions on chromosomes 4, 7, 12, 16, and 17. CBA. FISH showed that chromothripsis is associated with marker, derivative, and ring chromosomes. In conclusion, chromothripsis frequently occurs in AML (6.6%) and influences patient prognosis and disease biology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41375-018-0035-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6035145PMC
July 2018

Conjunctival and Limbal Transplantation From the Same Living-Related Bone Marrow Donor to Patients With Severe Ocular Graft-vs-Host Disease.

JAMA Ophthalmol 2017 10;135(10):1123-1125

Ophthalmology Unit, Dipartimento Medicina Specialistica, Diagnostica e Sperimentale, S. Orsola-Malpighi Teaching Hospital, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.3204DOI Listing
October 2017

Epigenetically induced ectopic expression of UNCX impairs the proliferation and differentiation of myeloid cells.

Haematologica 2017 07 14;102(7):1204-1214. Epub 2017 Apr 14.

Department of Biology, University of Bari "A. Moro", Italy

We here describe a leukemogenic role of the homeobox gene , activated by epigenetic modifications in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We found the ectopic activation of in a leukemia patient harboring a t(7;10)(p22;p14) translocation, in 22 of 61 of additional cases [a total of 23 positive patients out of 62 (37.1%)], and in 6 of 75 (8%) of AML cell lines. is embedded within a low-methylation region (canyon) and encodes for a transcription factor involved in somitogenesis and neurogenesis, with specific expression in the eye, brain, and kidney. expression turned out to be associated, and significantly correlated, with DNA methylation increase at its canyon borders based on data in our patients and in archived data of patients from The Cancer Genome Atlas. -positive and -negative patients displayed significant differences in their gene expression profiles. An enrichment of genes involved in cell proliferation and differentiation, such as and , was revealed. Similar results were obtained in -transduced CD34 cells, associated with low proliferation and differentiation arrest. Accordingly, we showed that expression characterizes leukemia cells at their early stage of differentiation, mainly M2 and M3 subtypes carrying wild-type We also observed that expression significantly associates with an increased frequency of acute promyelocytic leukemia with and AML with t(8;21)(q22;q22.1); classes, according to the World Health Organization disease classification. In summary, our findings suggest a novel leukemogenic role of , associated with epigenetic modifications and with impaired cell proliferation and differentiation in AML.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3324/haematol.2016.163022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5566027PMC
July 2017

Cryptic BCR-ABL fusion gene as variant rearrangement in chronic myeloid leukemia: molecular cytogenetic characterization and influence on TKIs therapy.

Oncotarget 2017 May;8(18):29906-29913

Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, Institute of Hematology "L. and A. Seràgnoli", University of Bologna, "S Orsola-Malpighi" University Hospital, Bologna, Italy.

At diagnosis, about 5% of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) patients lacks Philadelphia chromosome (Ph), despite the presence of the BCR/ABL rearrangement. Two mechanisms have been proposed about the occurrence of this rearrangement: the first one is a cryptic insertion between chromosomes 9 and 22; the second one involves two sequential translocations: a classic t(9;22) followed by a reverse translocation, which reconstitutes the normal morphology of the partner chromosomes. Out of 398 newly diagnosed CML patients, we selected 12 Ph-negative cases. Six Ph-negative patients treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) were characterized, in order to study the mechanisms leading to the rearrangement and the eventual correlation with prognosis in treatment with TKIs. FISH analysis revealed cryptic insertion in 5 patients and classic translocation in the last one. In more detail, we observed 4 different patterns of rearrangement, suggesting high genetic heterogeneity of these patients. In our cases, the BCR/ABL rearrangement mapped more frequently on 9q34 region than on 22q11 region, in contrast to previous reports. Four patients, with low Sokal risk, achieved Complete Cytogenetic Response and/or Major Molecular Response after TKIs therapy. Therapy resistance was observed in one patient with duplication of BCR/ABL rearrangement and in another one with high risk. Even if the number patient is inevitably low, we can confirm that the rare Ph-negative CML patients do not constitute a "warning" category, meanwhile the presence of further cytogenetic abnormalities remains an adverse prognostic factor even in TKI era.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15369DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5444712PMC
May 2017

Efficacy of Azacitidine in the treatment of adult patients aged 65 years or older with AML.

Expert Opin Pharmacother 2016 Dec 21;17(18):2479-2486. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

a Institute of Hematology L. e A. Seràgnoli , Universita degli Studi di Bologna Azienda Ospedaliera Sant\'Orsola-Malpighi Ringgold standard institution , Bologna , Italy.

Introduction: Therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in elderly populations (>65 years) is still a challenge for scientists and hematologists worldwide, and represents an urgent medical need. Notably, the identification and the recognition of molecular and epigenetic mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of such a heterogeneous disease, are providing new tools for a more successful and 'targeted' approach. Azacitidine is a hypomethylating agent (HMA) with relevant activity in patients affected by myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and AML with low blast cells percentage (>30%), in terms of reduction of transfusion dependence, and improvement of quality of life. Areas covered: This review summarizes the mechanism of action, safety profile and efficacy of azacitidine in the field of elderly AML populations, providing up-to-date references on this subset of high-risk patients. Expert opinion: HMAs are the first successful treatment for elderly patients with high-risk MDS and are effective for some AML subtypes. Translational studies based on gene expression profiling and molecular sequencing, would be able to identify, in the near future, patients with a favorable profile of response to these compounds suggesting new potential treatment combinations also.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14656566.2016.1258056DOI Listing
December 2016

Complex chromosomal rearrangements leading to MECOM overexpression are recurrent in myeloid malignancies with various 3q abnormalities.

Genes Chromosomes Cancer 2016 Apr 27;55(4):375-88. Epub 2016 Jan 27.

Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, Institute of Hematology and Medical Oncology "Seragnoli," Sant'Orsola-Malpighi Hospital-University, Bologna, Italy.

Chromosomal rearrangements involving 3q26 are recurrent findings in myeloid malignancies leading to MECOM overexpression, which has been associated with a very poor prognosis. Other 3q abnormalities have been reported and cryptic MECOM rearrangements have been identified in some cases. By fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis, we investigated 97 acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome patients with various 3q abnormalities to determine the role and the frequency of the involvement of MECOM. We identified MECOM rearrangements in 51 patients, most of them showed 3q26 involvement by chromosome banding analysis (CBA): inv(3)/t(3;3) (n = 26) and other balanced 3q26 translocations (t(3q26)) (n = 15); the remaining cases (n = 10) showed various 3q abnormalities: five with balanced translocations involving 3q21 or 3q25; two with homogenously staining region (hsr) on 3q; and three with other various 3q abnormalities. Complex rearrangements with multiple breakpoints on 3q, masking 3q26 involvement, were identified in cases with 3q21/3q25 translocations. Furthermore, multiple breaks were observed in two cases with t(3q26), suggesting that complex rearrangement may also occur in apparently simple t(3q26). Intrachromosomal gene amplification was another mechanism leading to MECOM overexpression in two cases with hsr on 3q. In the last three cases, FISH analysis revealed 3q26 involvement that was missed by CBA because of metaphases' suboptimal quality. All cases with MECOM rearrangements showed overexpression by real-time quantitative PCR. Finally, MECOM rearrangements can occur in patients with 3q abnormalities even in the absence of specific 3q26 involvement, underlining that their frequency is underestimated. As MECOM rearrangement has been associated with very poor prognosis, its screening should be performed in patients with any 3q abnormalities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gcc.22341DOI Listing
April 2016

Prognostic impact of serial measurements of serum-free light chain assay throughout the course of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma treated with bortezomib-based regimens.

Leuk Lymphoma 2016 09 14;57(9):2058-64. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

a Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, "Seràgnoli" Institute of Hematology , Bologna University School of Medicine , Bologna , Italy.

We retrospectively investigated the role of serial serum-free light chain (sFLC) evaluations in 150 multiple myeloma (MM) patients treated with first-line bortezomib-based regimens. Baseline sFLC ratio (sFLCR) identified three groups of patients - normal, lightly abnormal (<100), and highly abnormal (≥100) - with different progression-free survival (PFS: 3-year estimate 72% versus 61% versus 44%, respectively, p = 0.03). Moreover, the achievement of a normal sFLCR correlated with extended PFS (49 versus 17 months, p < 0.0001) and overall survival (75 versus 43 months, p < 0.0001) as compared with abnormal sFLCR, a gain maintained in a multivariate analysis for PFS. At relapse, a high sFLCR was associated with earlier start of salvage therapy compared with sFLCR <100 (3-month probability: 89% versus 64%, p = 0.0426). In 20% of patients, sFLC escape preceded the conventional relapse by a median of 3.8 months. Our results highlight the role of sFLC assay in the prognosis and follow-up of MM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/10428194.2015.1124994DOI Listing
September 2016

FGFR1 and KAT6A rearrangements in patients with hematological malignancies and chromosome 8p11 abnormalities: biological and clinical features.

Am J Hematol 2016 Mar;91(3):E14-6

Institute of Hematology and Medical Oncology "Lorenzo E Ariosto Seràgnoli", Sant'Orsola-Malpighi Hospital-University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajh.24276DOI Listing
March 2016

Revealing very small FLT3 ITD mutated clones by ultra-deep sequencing analysis has important clinical implications in AML patients.

Oncotarget 2015 Oct;6(31):31284-94

"Seràgnoli" Institute of Hematology, Sant'Orsola-Malpighi University Hospital, Bologna, Italy.

FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD), one of the most frequent mutations in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), is reported to be an unstable marker, as it can evolve from FLT3 ITD- to ITD+ during the disease course. A single-gene sensitive mutational screening approach may be helpful for better clarifying the exact timing of mutation occurrence, especially when FLT3 ITD appears to occur late, at disease progression. We developed an amplicon-based ultra-deep-sequencing (UDS) approach for FLT3 mutational screening. We exploited this highly sensitive technology for the retrospective screening of diagnosis, relapse and follow-up samples of 5 out of 256 cytogenetically normal (CN-) AML who were FLT3 wild-type at presentation, but tested ITD+ at relapse or disease progression. Our study revealed that all patients carried a small ITD+ clone at diagnosis, which was undetectable by routine analysis (0,2-2% abundance). The dynamics of ITD+ clones from diagnosis to disease progression, assessed by UDS, reflected clonal evolution under treatment pressure. UDS appears as a valuable tool for FLT3 mutational screening and for the assessment of minimal residual disease (MRD) during follow-up, by detecting small ITD+ clones that may survive chemotherapy, evolve over time and definitely worsen the prognosis of CN-AML patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5161DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4741605PMC
October 2015

Complex karyotype, older age, and reduced first-line dose intensity determine poor survival in core binding factor acute myeloid leukemia patients with long-term follow-up.

Am J Hematol 2015 Jun 1;90(6):515-23. Epub 2015 Apr 1.

Department of Hematology, General Hospital, Treviso, Italy.

Approximately 40% of patients affected by core binding factor (CBF) acute myeloid leukemia (AML) ultimately die from the disease. Few prognostic markers have been identified. We reviewed 192 patients with CBF AML, treated with curative intent (age, 15-79 years) in 11 Italian institutions. Overall, 10-year overall survival (OS), disease-free survival (DFS), and event-free survival were 63.9%, 54.8%, and 49.9%, respectively; patients with the t(8;21) and inv(16) chromosomal rearrangements exhibited significant differences at diagnosis. Despite similar high complete remission (CR) rate, patients with inv(16) experienced superior DFS and a high chance of achieving a second CR, often leading to prolonged OS also after relapse. We found that a complex karyotype (i.e., ≥4 cytogenetic anomalies) affected survival, even if only in univariate analysis; the KIT D816 mutation predicted worse prognosis, but only in patients with the t(8;21) rearrangement, whereas FLT3 mutations had no prognostic impact. We then observed increasingly better survival with more intense first-line therapy, in some high-risk patients including autologous or allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In multivariate analysis, age, severe thrombocytopenia, elevated lactate dehydrogenase levels, and failure to achieve CR after induction independently predicted longer OS, whereas complex karyotype predicted shorter OS only in univariate analysis. The achievement of minimal residual disease negativity predicted better OS and DFS. Long-term survival was observed also in a minority of elderly patients who received intensive consolidation. All considered, we identified among CBF AML patients a subgroup with poorer prognosis who might benefit from more intense first-line treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajh.24000DOI Listing
June 2015

FOXP1 and TP63 involvement in the progression of myelodysplastic syndrome with 5q- and additional cytogenetic abnormalities.

BMC Cancer 2014 Jun 3;14:396. Epub 2014 Jun 3.

Department of Biology, University of Bari, Via G,Amendola 165/A, Bari 70126, Italy.

Background: The progression of low-risk del(5q) myelodysplastic syndrome to acute myeloid leukemia is increased when associated with mutations of TP53, or with additional chromosomal abnormalities. However, to date the prognostic impact and molecular consequences of these rearrangements were poorly investigated. Single additional alterations to del(5q) by balanced chromosome rearrangements were rarely found in myelodysplasia. In particular, balanced alterations involving TP63 and FOXP1 genes were never reported in the literature.

Case Presentation: Here we report on a 79-year woman with an aggressive form of myelodysplastic syndrome with del(5q), no TP53 mutation, and a novel complex rearrangement of chromosome 3 in bone marrow cells. Our results revealed that the FOXP1 and TP63 genes were both relocated along chromosome 3. Strikingly, immunohistochemistry analysis showed altered protein levels, disclosing that this rearrangement triggered the expression of FOXP1 and TP63 genes. FOXP1 was also found activated in other patients with myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukemia, showing that it is an important, recurrent event.

Conclusions: We document an apparent role of FOXP1 and TP63, up to now poorly documented, in the progression of MDS in our patient who is lacking mutations in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene normally associated with poor outcome in myelodysplastic syndrome with 5q-. Finally, our results may suggest a possible broader role of FOXP1 in the pathogenesis and progression of myelodysplasia and acute myeloid leukemia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2407-14-396DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4059025PMC
June 2014

The GNAS1 gene in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

Leuk Res 2014 Jul 29;38(7):804-7. Epub 2014 Mar 29.

Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy. Electronic address:

GNAS1 gene is located at the long arm of chromosome 20 (q13.32). GNAS1 gene deletion has never been investigated in MDS. A GNAS1 activating mutation (R201) was recently found in MDS. We applied FISH and DHPLC plus sequencing to investigate GNAS1 gene in MDS cases with and without del(20q) at karyotype.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leukres.2014.03.017DOI Listing
July 2014

BCR-ABL1-associated reduction of beta catenin antagonist Chibby1 in chronic myeloid leukemia.

PLoS One 2013 10;8(12):e81425. Epub 2013 Dec 10.

Istituto di Ematologia "Lorenzo e Ariosto Seràgnoli", Dipartimento di Medicina Specialistica Diagnostica e Sperimentale - DIMES, University of Bologna - Medical School, Bologna, Italy.

Beta Catenin signaling is critical for the self-renewal of leukemic stem cells in chronic myeloid leukemia. It is driven by multiple events, enhancing beta catenin stability and promoting its transcriptional co-activating function. We investigated the impact of BCR-ABL1 on Chibby1, a beta catenin antagonist involved in cell differentiation and transformation. Relative proximity of the Chibby1 encoding gene (C22orf2) on chromosome 22q12 to the BCR breakpoint (22q11) lets assume its involvement in beta catenin activation in chronic myeloid leukemia as a consequence of deletions of distal BCR sequences encompassing one C22orf2 allele. Forty patients with chronic myeloid leukemia in chronic phase were analyzed for C22orf2 relocation and Chibby1 expression. Fluorescent in situ hybridization analyses established that the entire C22orf2 follows BCR regardless of chromosomes involved in the translocation. In differentiated hematopoietic progenitors (bone marrow mononuclear cell fractions) of 30/40 patients, the expression of Chibby1 protein was reduced below 50% of the reference value (peripheral blood mononuclear cell fractions of healthy persons). In such cell context, Chibby1 protein reduction is not dependent on C22orf2 transcriptional downmodulation; however, it is strictly dependent upon BCR-ABL1 expression because it was not observed at the moment of major molecular response under tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy. Moreover, it was not correlated with the disease prognosis or response to therapy. Most importantly, a remarkable Chibby1 reduction was apparent in a putative BCR-ABL1+ leukemic stem cell compartment identified by a CD34+ phenotype compared to more differentiated hematopoietic progenitors. In CD34+ cells, Chibby1 reduction arises from transcriptional events and is driven by C22orf2 promoter hypermethylation. These results advance low Chibby1 expression associated with BCR-ABL1 as a component of beta catenin signaling in leukemic stem cells.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081425PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858264PMC
March 2015

Recurrent Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage in Treatment with Dasatinib in a Patient Showing SMAD4 Mutation with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia Positive and Juvenile Polyposis Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Syndrome.

Hematol Rep 2013 Jun 3;5(2):26-7. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, University of Bologna , Italy.

We report a case of a patient affected by juvenile polyposis and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia linked to a SMAD4 mutation who developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia positive for the Philadelphia chromosome translocation and with a complex karyotype. During the treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor dasatinib the patient presented recurrent severe gastrointestinal hemorrhages linked to the genetic background and aggravated by thrombocytopenia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4081/hr.2013.e7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719101PMC
June 2013

Effects and outcome of a policy of intermittent imatinib treatment in elderly patients with chronic myeloid leukemia.

Blood 2013 Jun 15;121(26):5138-44. Epub 2013 May 15.

Unit of Blood Diseases and Stem Cell Transplantation, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.

We report a study of an alternative treatment schedule of imatinib (IM) in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Seventy-six Philadelphia-positive (Ph+), BCR-ABL-positive patients aged 65 years or older who had been treated with IM for more than 2 years and who were in stable complete cytogenetic response (CCgR) and major molecular response (MMR) were enrolled in a single-arm study to test the effects of a policy of intermittent IM (INTERIM) therapy for 1 month on and 1 month off. With a minimum follow-up of 4 years, 13 patients (17%) lost CCgR and MMR and 14 (18%) lost MMR only. All these patients resumed continuous IM and all but one (lost to follow-up) regained CCgR and MMR. No patients progressed to accelerated or blastic phase or developed clonal chromosomal abnormalities in Ph+ cells or BCR-ABL mutations. In elderly Ph+ CML patients carefully selected for a stable CCgR (lasting >2 years), the policy of INTERIM treatment affected the markers of residual disease, but not the clinical outcomes (overall and progression-free survival). This trial was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT 00858806.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1182/blood-2013-01-480194DOI Listing
June 2013

Correlation between eight-gene expression profiling and response to therapy of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients treated with thalidomide-dexamethasone incorporated into double autologous transplantation.

Ann Hematol 2013 Sep 10;92(9):1271-80. Epub 2013 May 10.

Istituto di Ematologia Seràgnoli, Dipartimento di Medicina Specialistica, Diagnostica e Sperimentale (DIMES), Università degli Studi di Bologna, Via Massarenti, 9-40138, Bologna, Italy.

We performed a molecular study aimed at identifying a gene expression profile (GEP) signature predictive of attainment of at least near complete response (CR) to thalidomide-dexamethasone (TD) as induction regimen in preparation for double autologous stem cell transplantation in 112 younger patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. A GEP supervised analysis was performed on a training set of 32 patients, allowing to identify 157 probe sets differentially expressed in patients with CR versus those failing CR to TD. We then generated an eight-gene GEP signature whose performance was subsequently validated in a training set of 80 patients. A correct prediction of response to TD was found in 71 % of the cases analyzed. The eight genes were downregulated in patients who achieved CR to TD. Comparisons between post-autotransplantation outcomes of the 44 non-CR-predicted patients and of the 36 CR-predicted patients showed that this latter subgroup had a statistically significant benefit in terms of higher rate of CR after autotransplant(s) and longer time to progression, event-free survival, and overall survival. These results can be an important first step to identify at diagnosis those patients who will respond more favourably to a particular treatment strategy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00277-013-1757-6DOI Listing
September 2013

A novel t(2;10)(q31;p12) balanced translocation in acute myeloid leukemia.

Hematol Rep 2012 Nov 11;4(4):e27. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

Department of Biology, University of Bari;

We describe a case of acute myeloid leukemia M5 showing a balanced t(2;10) (q31;p12) translocation. This has never been described before as the sole cytogenetic abnormality in a bone marrow cell clone at onset. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization with properly designed bacterial artificial chromosome probes, we mapped the breakpoint regions on both derivative chromosomes 2 and 10: der(2) and der(10), respectively. The MPP7 gene, disrupted by the breakpoint on chromosome 10, was juxtaposed upstream of both HNRNA3 and NFE2L2 genes on chromosome 2, without the formation of any fusion gene. Using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, we tested the possible disregulation of any of the breakpoint-associated genes as a consequence of the translocation, but we found no statistically significant alteration. Considering the potential role of this clonal cytogenetic abnormality in leukemogenesis, we speculate that this translocation could have an impact on additional genes mapping outside the breakpoint regions. However, the limited amount of RNA material available prevented us from testing this hypothesis in this present case.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4081/hr.2012.e27DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555215PMC
November 2012
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