Leukemia stem cells as a potential target to achieve therapy-free remission in chronic myeloid leukemia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Leukemia stem cells (LSCs, also known as leukemia-initiating cells) not only drive leukemia initiation and progression, but also contribute to drug resistance and/or disease relapse. Therefore, eradication of every last LSC is critical for a patient’s long-term cure. Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a myeloproliferative disorder that arises from multipotent hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have dramatically improved long-term outcomes and quality of life for patients with CML in the chronic phase. Point mutations of the kinase domain of BCR-ABL1 lead to TKI resistance through a reduction in drug binding, and as a result, several new generations of TKIs have been introduced to the clinic. Some patients develop TKI resistance without known mutations, however, and the presence of LSCs is believed to be at least partially associated with resistance development and CML relapse. We previously proposed targeting quiescent LSCs as a therapeutic approach to CML, and a number of potential strategies for targeting insensitive LSCs have been presented over the last decade. The identification of specific markers distinguishing CML-LSCs from healthy HSCs, and the potential contributions of the bone marrow microenvironment to CML pathogenesis, have also been explored. Nonetheless, 25% of CML patients are still expected to switch TKIs at least once, and various TKI discontinuation studies have shown a wide range in the incidence of molecular relapse (from 30% to 60%). In this review, we revisit the current knowledge regarding the role(s) of LSCs in CML leukemogenesis and response to pharmacological treatment and explore how durable treatment-free remission may be achieved and maintained after discontinuing TKI treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5822
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Leukemia stem cell
  • Metabolic regulation
  • Microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Leukemia stem cells as a potential target to achieve therapy-free remission in chronic myeloid leukemia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this