Bone marrow microenvironment modulation of acute lymphoblastic leukemia phenotype

Exp Hematol. 2016 Jan;44(1):50-9.e1-2. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) treatment regimens have dramatically improved the survival of ALL patients. However, chemoresistant minimal residual disease that persists following cessation of therapy contributes to aggressive relapse. The bone marrow microenvironment (BMM) is an established "site of sanctuary" for ALL, as well as myeloid-lineage hematopoietic disease, with signals in this unique anatomic location contributing to drug resistance. Several models have been developed to recapitulate the interactions between the BMM and ALL cells. However, many in vitro models fail to accurately reflect the level of protection afforded to the most resistant subset of leukemic cells during coculture with BMM elements. Preclinical in vivo models have advantages, but can be costly, and are often not fully informed by optimal in vitro studies. We describe an innovative extension of 2-D coculture wherein ALL cells uniquely interact with bone marrow-derived stromal cells. Tumor cells in this model bury beneath primary human bone marrow-derived stromal cells or osteoblasts, termed "phase dim" ALL, and exhibit a unique phenotype characterized by altered metabolism, distinct protein expression profiles, increased quiescence, and pronounced chemotherapy resistance. Investigation focused on the phase dim subpopulation may more efficiently inform preclinical design and investigation of the minimal residual disease and relapse that arise from BMM-supported leukemic tumor cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*