Acute promyelocytic Leukemia: Update on the mechanisms of leukemogenesis, resistance and on innovative treatment strategies

N. I. Noguera, G. Catalano, C. Banella, M. Divona, I. Faraoni, T. Ottone, W. Arcese, M. T. Voso

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This review highlights new findings that have deepened our understanding of the mechanisms of leukemogenesis, therapy and resistance in acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Promyelocytic leukemia-retinoic acid receptor a (PML-RARa) sets the cellular landscape of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) by repressing the transcription of RARa target genes and disrupting PML-NBs. The RAR receptors control the homeostasis of tissue growth, modeling and regeneration, and PML-NBs are involved in self-renewal of normal and cancer stem cells, DNA damage response, senescence and stress response. The additional somatic mutations in APL mainly involve FLT3, WT1, NRAS, KRAS, ARID1B and ARID1A genes. The treatment outcomes in patients with newly diagnosed APL improved dramatically since the advent of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and arsenic trioxide (ATO). ATRA activates the transcription of blocked genes and degrades PML-RARa, while ATO degrades PML-RARa by promoting apoptosis and has a pro-oxidant effect. The resistance to ATRA and ATO may derive from the mutations in the RARa ligand binding domain (LBD) and in the PML-B2 domain of PML-RARa, but such mutations cannot explain the majority of resistances experienced in the clinic, globally accounting for 5-10% of cases. Several studies are ongoing to unravel clonal evolution and resistance, suggesting the therapeutic potential of new retinoid molecules and combinatorial treatments ofATRA or ATOwith different drugs acting through alternative mechanisms of action, which may lead to synergistic effects on growth control or the induction of apoptosis in APL cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1591
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • APL
  • Ascorbate
  • ATO
  • ATRA
  • NGS
  • Resistance
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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