Significant skeletal alterations are present in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) patients; bone erosion, particularly evident in the long bone shaft, appeared increased in the progressive disease stage. Moreover, the partial colonization of the bone with reactive bone marrow we documented via PET-FDG imaging suggests that neoplastic cell overgrowth contributes to bone derangement. Indeed, cytokines released by leukemic B cells impair osteoblast differentiation and enhance osteoclast formation in vitro. CD16, Fcγ-RIIIa, has been previously indicated as a marker of osteoclast precursors. We demonstrate, here, that the percentage of circulating monocytes, CD16+, is significantly higher in CLL patients than in normal controls and directly correlated with the extent of bone erosion. When we assessed if healthy monocytes, treated with a CLL-conditioned medium, modulated RANK, RANKL and CD16, we observed that all these molecules were up-regulated and CD16 to a greater extent. Altogether, these findings suggest that leukemic cells facilitate osteoclast differentiation. Interestingly, the evidence that monocytes, polarized toward the M2 phenotype, were characterized by high CD16 expression and showed a striking propensity to differentiate toward osteoclasts may provide further explanations for the enhanced levels of bone erosion detected, in agreement with the high number of immunosuppressive-M2 cells present in these patients.
Keywords: bone remodeling; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; microenvironment; monocytes.