Lymphocyte migration and retention properties affected by ibrutinib in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Haematologica. 2024 Mar 1;109(3):809-823. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2022.282466.


The Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib is widely used for treatment of patients with relapsed/refractory or treatment-naïve chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). A prominent effect of ibrutinib is to disrupt the retention of CLL cells from supportive lymphoid tissues, by altering BTK-dependent adhesion and migration. To further explore the mechanism of action of ibrutinib and its potential impact on non-leukemic cells, we quantified multiple motility and adhesion parameters of human primary CLL cells and non-leukemic lymphoid cells. In vitro, ibrutinib affected CCL19-, CXCL12- and CXCL13-evoked migration behavior of CLL cells and non-neoplastic lymphocytes, by reducing both motility speed and directionality. De-phosphorylation of BTK induced by ibrutinib in CLL cells was associated with defective polarization over fibronectin and inability to assemble the immunological synapse upon B-cell receptor engagement. In patients' samples collected during a 6-month monitoring of therapy, chemokine-evoked migration was repressed in CLL cells and marginally reduced in T cells. This was accompanied by profound modulation of the expression of chemokine receptors and adhesion molecules. Remarkably, the relative expression of the receptors governing lymph node entry (CCR7) versus exit (S1PR1) stood out as a reliable predictive marker of the clinically relevant treatment-induced lymphocytosis. Together, our data reveal a multifaceted modulation of motility and adhesive properties of ibrutinib on both CLL leukemic cell and T-cell populations and point to intrinsic differences in CLL recirculation properties as an underlying cause for variability in treatment response.

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell* / drug therapy
  • Lymphocytes
  • Lymphoid Tissue
  • Piperidines*


  • ibrutinib
  • Adenine
  • Piperidines

Grants and funding

Funding: This work was supported by the INSERM Plan Cancer program (C15092BS to LD, LY and SG) and the Association Laurette Fugain (to LD).