CD38 in Hairy Cell Leukemia Is a Marker of Poor Prognosis and a New Target for Therapy

Cancer Res. 2015 Sep 15;75(18):3902-11. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-0893.


Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is characterized by underexpression of the intracellular signaling molecule RhoH. Reconstitution of RhoH expression limits HCL pathogenesis in a mouse model, indicating this could represent a new therapeutic strategy. However, while RhoH reconstitution is theoretically possible as a therapy, it is technically immensely challenging as an appropriately functional RhoH protein needs to be specifically targeted. Because of this problem, we sought to identify druggable proteins on the HCL surface that were dependent upon RhoH underexpression. One such protein was identified as CD38. Analysis of 51 HCL patients demonstrated that 18 were CD38-positive. Interrogation of the clinical record of 23 relapsed HCL patients demonstrated those that were CD38-positive had a mean time to salvage therapy 71 months shorter than patients who were CD38-negative. Knockout of the CD38 gene in HCL cells increased apoptosis, inhibited adherence to endothelial monolayers, and compromised ability to produce tumors in vivo. Furthermore, an anti-CD38 antibody proved effective against pre-existing HCL tumors. Taken together, our data indicate that CD38 expression in HCL drives poor prognosis by promoting survival and heterotypic adhesion. Our data also indicate that CD38-positive HCL patients might benefit from treatments based on CD38 targeting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1 / analysis
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1 / immunology
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1 / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Female
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use*
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / immunology*
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / mortality
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / therapy
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / analysis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Prognosis
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Transfection
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RhoH protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • CD38 protein, human
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins