Tie2-expressing monocytes (TEMs) are associated with tumor progression and metastasis. This unique subset of monocytes has been identified as a potential prognostic marker in several solid tumors. However, TEMs remain poorly characterized in hematological cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This study analyzed, for the first time, the clinical significance of TEM population in CLL patients. Flow cytometry analysis of TEMs (defined as CD14+CD16+Tie2+ cells) was performed at the time of diagnosis on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 104 untreated CLL patients. Our results revealed an expansion of circulating TEM in CLL patients. These monocytes express high levels of VEGF and suppressive IL-10. A high percentage of TEM was associated closely with unfavorable prognostic markers (ZAP-70, CD38, 17p and 11q deletion, and IGHV mutational status). Moreover, increased percentages of circulating TEMs were significantly higher in patients not responding to the first-line therapy as compared to responding patients, suggesting its potential predictive value. High TEM percentage was also correlated with shorter overall survival (OS) and shorter time to treatment (TTT). Importantly, based on multivariate Cox regression analysis, TEM percentage was an independent predictor for TTT. Thus, we can suggest the adverse role of TEMs in CLL.
Keywords: CLL; TEM; Tie2; monocytes.