On the way to targeted therapy of mast cell neoplasms: identification of molecular targets in neoplastic mast cells and evaluation of arising treatment concepts


Peter Valent, MD, Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Hematology and Hemostaseology, Medical University of Vienna, Währinger Gürtel 18–20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria. Tel.: +43 140400 6085/5488; Fax: +43 1402 6930; E-mail: peter.valent@meduniwien.ac.at


Several emerging treatment concepts for myeloid neoplasms are based on novel drugs targeting cell surface antigens, signalling pathways, or critical effector molecules. Systemic mastocytosis is a haematopoietic neoplasm that behaves as an indolent myeloproliferative disease in most patients, but can also present as aggressive disease or even as an acute leukaemia. In patients with aggressive disease or mast cell leukaemia, the response to conventional therapy is poor in most cases, and the prognosis is grave. Therefore, a number of attempts have been made to define novel treatment strategies for these patients. One promising approach may be to identify novel targets and to develop targeted drug therapies. In this article, we support the notion that neoplastic mast cells indeed express a number of potential molecular targets including immunoreactive CD antigens, the microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF), and members of the Bcl-2 family. In addition, the tyrosine kinase receptor KIT and downstream signalling pathways have been proposed as targets of a specific pharmacological intervention. A particular challenge is the disease-related D816V-mutated variant of KIT, which is resistant against diverse tyrosine kinase inhibitors including STI571, but may be sensitive to more recently developed targeted compounds. The therapeutic potential of target-specific approaches in malignant mast cell disorders should be evaluated in forthcoming clinical trials in the near future.