William H Towns

The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States

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Publications (16)119.18 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) is a life-threatening impediment to allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and current therapies do not completely prevent and/or treat cGVHD. CD4+ T cells and B cells mediate cGVHD; therefore, targeting these populations may inhibit cGVHD pathogenesis. Ibrutinib is an FDA-approved irreversible inhibitor of Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) and IL-2 inducible T cell kinase (ITK) that targets Th2 cells and B cells and produces durable remissions in B cell malignancies with minimal toxicity. Here, we evaluated whether ibrutinib could reverse established cGVHD in 2 complementary murine models, a model interrogating T cell-driven sclerodermatous cGVHD and an alloantibody-driven multiorgan system cGVHD model that induces bronchiolar obliterans (BO). In the T cell-mediated sclerodermatous cGVHD model, ibrutinib treatment delayed progression, improved survival, and ameliorated clinical and pathological manifestations. In the alloantibody-driven cGVHD model, ibrutinib treatment restored pulmonary function and reduced germinal center reactions and tissue immunoglobulin deposition. Animals lacking BTK and ITK did not develop cGVHD, indicating that these molecules are critical to cGVHD development. Furthermore, ibrutinib treatment reduced activation of T and B cells from patients with active cGVHD. Our data demonstrate that B cells and T cells drive cGVHD and suggest that ibrutinib has potential as a therapeutic agent, warranting consideration for cGVHD clinical trials.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 10/2014; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Treatment options for patients with Epstein-Barr Virus-driven lymphoproliferative diseases (EBV-LPD) are limited. Chemo-immunotherapeutic approaches often lead to immune suppression, risk of lethal infection and EBV reactivation, thus it is essential to identify agents that can deliver direct anti-tumor activity while preserving innate and adaptive host immune surveillance. Silvestrol possesses direct anti-tumor activity in multiple hematologic malignancies while causing minimal toxicity to normal mononuclear cells. However, the effects of silvestrol on immune function have not been described. We utilized in vitro and in vivo models of EBV-LPD to simultaneously examine the impact of silvestrol on both tumor and normal immune function. We show that silvestrol induces direct anti-tumor activity against EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL), with growth inhibition, decreased expression of the EBV oncogene latent membrane protein-1, and inhibition of the downstream AKT, STAT1 and STAT3 signaling pathways. Silvestrol promoted potent indirect anti-tumor effects by preserving expansion of innate and EBV antigen-specific adaptive immune effector subsets capable of effective clearance of LCL tumor targets in autologous co-cultures. In an animal model of spontaneous EBV-LPD, silvestrol demonstrated significant therapeutic activity dependent on the presence of CD8-positive T-cells. These findings establish a novel immune-sparing activity of silvestrol, justifying further exploration in patients with EBV-positive malignancies.
    Oncotarget 06/2014; · 6.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Therapeutic regimens for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have increasingly utilized monoclonal antibodies since the chimeric anti-CD20 antibody rituximab was introduced. Despite improved clinical outcomes, current CLL therapies are not curative. Therefore, antibodies with greater efficacy and novel targets are desirable. One promising target is CD37, a tetraspanin protein highly expressed on malignant B-cells in CLL and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While several novel CD37-directed therapeutics are emerging, detailed preclinical evaluation of these agents is limited by lack of appropriate animal models with spontaneous leukemia expressing the human CD37 (hCD37) target. To address this, we generated a murine CLL model that develops transplantable hCD37+ leukemia. Subsequently, we engrafted healthy mice with this leukemia to evaluate IMGN529, a novel hCD37-targeting antibody-drug conjugate. IMGN529 rapidly eliminated peripheral blood leukemia and improved overall survival. In contrast, the antibody component of IMGN529 could not alter disease course despite exhibiting substantial in vitro cytotoxicity. Furthermore, IMGN529 is directly cytotoxic to human CLL in vitro, depletes B-cells in patient whole blood, and promotes killing by macrophages and NK cells. Our results demonstrate the utility of a novel mouse model for evaluating anti-human CD37 therapeutics and highlight the potential of IMGN529 for treatment of CLL and other CD37-positive B-cell malignancies.Leukemia accepted article preview online, 21 January 2014. doi:10.1038/leu.2014.32.
    Leukemia: official journal of the Leukemia Society of America, Leukemia Research Fund, U.K 01/2014; · 10.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) demonstrates variable reactivity of the B cell receptor (BCR) to antigen ligation, but constitutive pathway activation. Bruton's Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) shows constitutive activity in CLL, and is the target of irreversible inhibition by ibrutinib, an orally bioavailable kinase inhibitor that has shown outstanding activity in CLL. Early clinical results in CLL with other reversible and irreversible BTK inhibitors have been less promising, however, raising the question of whether BTK kinase activity is an important target of ibrutinib and also in CLL. To determine the role of BTK in CLL, we utilized patient samples and the Eμ-TCL1 (TCL1) transgenic mouse model of CLL which results in spontaneous leukemia development. Inhibition of BTK in primary human CLL cells by siRNA promotes apoptosis. Inhibition of BTK kinase activity through either targeted genetic inactivation or ibrutinib in the TCL1 mouse significantly delays the development of CLL, demonstrating that BTK is a critical kinase for CLL development and expansion and thus an important target of ibrutinib. Collectively, our data confirm the importance of kinase-functional BTK in CLL.
    Blood 12/2013; · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have yielded substantial progress, however a lack of immortalized cell lines representative of the primary disease has hampered a full understanding of disease pathogenesis and development of new treatments. Here we describe a novel CLL cell line (OSU-CLL) generated by EBV transformation, which displays a similar cytogenetic and immunophenotype observed in the patient's CLL (CD5 positive with trisomy 12 and 19). A companion cell line was also generated from the same patient (OSU-NB). This cell line lacked typical CLL characteristics, and is likely derived from the patient's normal B cells. In vitro migration assays demonstrated that OSU-CLL exhibits migratory properties similar to primary CLL cells whereas OSU-NB has significantly reduced ability to migrate spontaneously or towards chemokine. Microarray analysis demonstrated distinct gene expression patterns in the two cell lines, including genes on chromosomes 12 and 19, which is consistent with the cytogenetic profile in this cell line. Finally, OSU-CLL was readily transplantable into NOG mice, producing uniform engraftment by three weeks with leukemic cells detectable in the peripheral blood spleen and bone marrow. These studies describe a new CLL cell line that extends currently available models to study gene function in this disease.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(10):e76607. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: PURPOSE: Corticosteroids are widely used for the treatment of B-cell malignancies, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL); however this class of drug is associated with undesirable off-target effects. Herein we developed novel milatuzumab-conjugated liposomes as a targeted dexamethasone carrier for therapeutic delivery in CD74+ B-cell malignancies, and explored its effect against the disease. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The targeting efficiency of milatuzumab-targeted liposomes to CD74+ cells was evaluated in vitro. The effect of CD74-targeted liposomal dexamethasone was compared with free dexamethasone in primary CLL cells and cell lines in vitro. The therapeutic efficacy of CD74 targeted liposomal dexamethasone was evaluated in a Raji-severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) xenograft model in vivo. RESULTS: Milatuzumab-targeted liposomes promoted selective incorporation of carrier molecules into transformed CD74-positive B-cells as compared to CD74- negative T-cells. The CD74-dexamethasone-targeted liposomes (CD74-IL-DEX) promoted and increased killing in CD74-positive tumor cells and primary CLL cells. Furthermore, the targeted drug liposomes showed enhanced therapeutic efficacy against a CD74-positive B-cell model as compared to free, or non-targeted, liposomal dexamethasone(L-DEX) in SCID mice engrafted with Raji cells in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: These studies provide evidence and support for a potential use of CD74-targeted liposomal dexamethasone as a new therapy for B-cell malignancies.
    Clinical Cancer Research 12/2012; · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lenalidomide is a synthetic derivative of thalidomide exhibiting multiple immunomodulatory activities beneficial in the treatment of several hematological malignancies. Murine pharmacokinetic characterization necessary for translational and further preclinical investigations has not been published. Studies herein define mouse plasma pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution after intravenous (IV) bolus administration and bioavailability after oral and intraperitoneal delivery. Range finding studies used lenalidomide concentrations up to 15 mg/kg IV, 22.5 mg/kg intraperitoneal injections (IP), and 45 mg/kg oral gavage (PO). Pharmacokinetic studies evaluated doses of 0.5, 1.5, 5, and 10 mg/kg IV and 0.5 and 10 mg/kg doses for IP and oral routes. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry was used to quantify lenalidomide in plasma, brain, lung, liver, heart, kidney, spleen, and muscle. Pharmacokinetic parameters were estimated using noncompartmental and compartmental methods. Doses of 15 mg/kg IV, 22.5 mg/kg IP, and 45 mg/kg PO lenalidomide caused no observable toxicity up to 24 h postdose. We observed dose-dependent kinetics over the evaluated dosing range. Administration of 0.5 and 10 mg/kg resulted in systemic bioavailability ranges of 90-105% and 60-75% via IP and oral routes, respectively. Lenalidomide was detectable in the brain only after IV dosing of 5 and 10 mg/kg. Dose-dependent distribution was also observed in some tissues. High oral bioavailability of lenalidomide in mice is consistent with oral bioavailability in humans. Atypical lenalidomide tissue distribution was observed in spleen and brain. The observed dose-dependent pharmacokinetics should be taken into consideration in translational and preclinical mouse studies.
    The AAPS Journal 09/2012; 14(4):872-82. · 4.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During cell-cycle progression, D-cyclins activate cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) 4/6 to inactivate Rb, permitting E2F1-mediated S-phase gene transcription. This critical pathway is typically deregulated in cancer, and novel inhibitory strategies would be effective in a variety of tumors. The protein synthesis inhibitor silvestrol has potent activity in B-cell leukemias via the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, and also reduces cyclin D1 expression in breast cancer and lymphoma cell lines. We hypothesized that this dual activity of silvestrol would make it especially effective in malignancies driven by aberrant cyclin D1 expression. Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), characterized by elevated cyclin D1, was used as a model to test this approach. The cyclin D/Rb/E2F1 pathway was investigated in vitro using MCL cell lines and primary tumor cells. Silvestrol was also evaluated in vivo using an aggressive model of MCL. Silvestrol showed low nanomolar potency both in MCL cell lines and primary MCL tumor cells. D-cyclins were depleted with just 10 nmol/L silvestrol at 16 hours, with subsequent reductions of phosphorylated Rb, E2F1 protein, and E2F1 target transcription. As showed in other leukemias, silvestrol caused Mcl-1 depletion followed by mitochondrial depolarization and caspase-dependent apoptosis, effects not related to inhibition of CDK4/6. Silvestrol significantly (P < 0.0001) prolonged survival in a MCL xenograft model without detectable toxicity. These data indicate that silvestrol effectively targets the cyclin/CDK/Rb pathway, and additionally induces cytotoxicity via intrinsic apoptosis. This dual activity may be an effective therapeutic strategy in MCL and other malignancies.
    Clinical Cancer Research 07/2012; 18(17):4600-11. · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive B-cell malignancy with a short median survival despite multimodal therapy. FTY720, an immunosuppressive drug approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, promotes MCL cell death concurrent with down-modulation of phospho-Akt and cyclin D1 and subsequent cell-cycle arrest. However, the mechanism of FTY720-mediated MCL cell death remains to be fully clarified. In the present study, we show features of autophagy blockage by FTY720 treatment, including accumulation of autolysosomes and increased LC3-II and p62 levels. We also show that FTY720-induced cell death is mediated by lysosomal membrane permeabilization with subsequent translocation of lysosomal hydrolases to the cytosol. FTY720-mediated disruption of the autophagic-lysosomal pathway led to increased levels of CD74, a potential therapeutic target in MCL that is degraded in the lysosomal compartment. This finding provided rationale for examining combination therapy with FTY720 and milatuzumab, an anti-CD74 mAb. Treatment of MCL cell lines and primary tumor cells with FTY720 and milatuzumab resulted in statistically significant enhanced cell death, which was synergistic in blastic variant MCL cell lines. Significant in vivo therapeutic activity of combination treatment was also demonstrated in a preclinical, in vivo model of MCL. These findings support clinical evaluation of this combination in patients with MCL.
    Blood 12/2011; 118(26):6893-903. · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The HSP90 client chaperone interaction stabilizes several important enzymes and antiapoptotic proteins, and pharmacologic inhibition of HSP90 results in rapid client protein degradation. Therefore, HSP90 inhibition is an attractive therapeutic approach when this protein is active, a phenotype commonly observed in transformed but not normal cells. However, preclinical studies with HSP90 inhibitors such as 17-AAG demonstrated depletion of only a subset of client proteins and very modest tumor cytotoxicity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. Herein, we describe another HSP90 inhibitor, 17-DMAG, which is cytotoxic to CLL but not normal lymphocytes. Treatment with 17-DMAG leads to depletion of the HSP90 client protein IKK, resulting in diminished NF-kappaB p50/p65 DNA binding, decreased NF-kappaB target gene transcription, and caspase-dependent apoptosis. Furthermore, treatment with 17-DMAG significantly decreased the white blood cell count and prolonged the survival in a TCL1-SCID transplant mouse model. The ability of 17-DMAG to function as an NF-kappaB inhibitor is of great interest clinically, as few currently available CLL drugs target this transcription factor. Therefore, the effect of 17-DMAG on NF-kappaB signaling pathways represents a novel therapy warranting further clinical pursuit in this and other B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.
    Blood 03/2010; 116(1):45-53. · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Signaling events leading to Schwann cell tumor initiation have been extensively characterized in the context of neurofibromatosis (NF). Similar tumors are also observed in patients with the endocrine neoplasia syndrome Carney complex, which results from inactivating mutations in PRKAR1A. Loss of PRKAR1A causes enhanced protein kinase A activity, although the pathways leading to tumorigenesis are not well characterized. Tissue-specific ablation of Prkar1a in neural crest precursor cells (TEC3KO mice) causes schwannomas with nearly 80% penetrance by 10 months. These heterogeneous neoplasms were clinically characterized as genetically engineered mouse schwannomas, grades II and III. At the molecular level, analysis of the tumors revealed almost complete loss of both NF proteins, despite the fact that transcript levels were increased, implying posttranscriptional regulation. Although Erk and Akt signaling are typically enhanced in NF-associated tumors, we observed no activation of either of these pathways in TEC3KO tumors. Furthermore, the small G proteins Ras, Rac1, and RhoA are all known to be involved with NF signaling. In TEC3KO tumors, all three molecules showed modest increases in total protein, but only Rac1 showed significant activation. These data suggest that dysregulated protein kinase A activation causes tumorigenesis through pathways that overlap but are distinct from those described in NF tumorigenesis.
    Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 12/2008; 10(11):1213-21. · 5.48 Impact Factor
  • European Journal of Cancer Supplements. 07/2008; 6(9):12.
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    ABSTRACT: Protein kinase A signaling has long been known to play an important role in cardiac function. Dysregulation of the protein kinase A system, caused by mutation of the protein kinase A regulatory subunit gene PRKAR1A, causes the inherited tumor syndrome Carney complex, which includes cardiac myxomas as one of its cardinal features. Mouse models of this genetic defect have been unsatisfactory because homozygote null animals die early in development and heterozygotes do not exhibit a cardiac phenotype. To study the cardiac-specific effects resulting from complete loss of Prkar1a, we used cre-lox technology to generate mice lacking this protein specifically in cardiomyocytes. Conditional knockout mice died at day 11.5 to 12.5 of embryogenesis with thin-walled, dilated hearts. These hearts showed elevated protein kinase A activity and decreased cardiomyocyte proliferation before demise. Analysis of the expression of transcription factors required for cardiogenesis revealed downregulation of key cardiac transcription factors such as the serum response factor, Gata4, and Nkx2-5. Although heart wall thickness was reduced overall, specific areas exhibited morphological changes consistent with myxomatous degeneration in the walls of knockout hearts. Loss of Prkar1a from the heart causes a failure of proper myocardial development with subsequent cardiac failure and embryonic demise. These changes appear to be due to suppression of cardiac-specific transcription by increased protein kinase A activity. These biochemical changes lead to myxoma-like changes, indicating that these mice may be a good model with which to study the formation of these tumors.
    Circulation 04/2008; 117(11):1414-22. · 15.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Carney complex (CNC) is an autosomal dominant neoplasia syndrome caused by inactivating mutations in PRKAR1A, the gene encoding the type 1A regulatory subunit of protein kinase A (PKA). This genetic defect induces skin pigmentation, endocrine tumors, myxomas, and schwannomas. Some patients with the complex also develop myxoid bone tumors termed osteochondromyxomas. To study the link between the PRKAR1A mutations and tumor formation, we generated a mouse model of this condition. Prkar1a(+/-) mice develop bone tumors with high frequency, although these lesions have not yet been characterized, either from human patients or from mice. Bone tumors from Prkar1a(+/-) mice were heterogeneous, including elements of myxomatous, cartilaginous, and bony differentiation that effaced the normal bone architecture. Immunohistochemical analysis identified an osteoblastic origin for the abnormal cells associated with islands of bone. To better understand these cells at the biochemical level, we isolated primary cultures of tumoral bone and compared them with cultures of bone from wild-type animals. The tumor cells exhibited the expected decrease in Prkar1a protein and exhibited increased PKA activity. At the phenotypic level, we observed that tumor cells behaved as incompletely differentiated osteoblasts and were able to form tumors in immunocompromised mice. Examination of gene expression revealed down-regulation of markers of bone differentiation and increased expression of locally acting growth factors, including members of the Wnt signaling pathway. Tumor cells exhibited enhanced growth in response to PKA-stimulating agents, suggesting that tumorigenesis in osteoblast precursor cells is driven by effects directly mediated by the dysregulation of PKA.
    Molecular Endocrinology 03/2008; 22(2):430-40. · 4.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Carney complex is an autosomal dominant neoplasia syndrome characterized by spotty skin pigmentation, myxomatosis, endocrine tumors, and schwannomas. This condition may be caused by inactivating mutations in PRKAR1A, the gene encoding the type 1A regulatory subunit of protein kinase A. To better understand the mechanism by which PRKAR1A mutations cause disease, we have developed conventional and conditional null alleles for Prkar1a in the mouse. Prkar1a(+/-) mice developed nonpigmented schwannomas and fibro-osseous bone lesions beginning at approximately 6 months of age. Although genotype-specific cardiac and adrenal lesions were not seen, benign and malignant thyroid neoplasias were observed in older mice. This spectrum of tumors overlaps that seen in Carney complex patients, confirming the validity of this mouse model. Genetic analysis indicated that allelic loss occurred in a subset of tumor cells, suggesting that complete loss of Prkar1a plays a key role in tumorigenesis. Similarly, tissue-specific ablation of Prkar1a from a subset of facial neural crest cells caused the formation of schwannomas with divergent differentiation. These observations confirm the identity of PRKAR1A as a tumor suppressor gene with specific importance to cyclic AMP-responsive tissues and suggest that these mice may be valuable tools not only for understanding endocrine tumorigenesis but also for understanding inherited predispositions for schwannoma formation.
    Cancer Research 07/2005; 65(11):4506-14. · 8.65 Impact Factor