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1.  Dasatinib in chronic myeloid leukemia: a review 
Deregulated BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase (TK) activity is the molecular marker for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which provides an identifiable target for developing therapeutic agents. Imatinib mesylate, a BCR-ABL TK inhibitor, is the frontline therapy for CML. Despite the stunning efficacy of this agent, a small number of patients develop a suboptimal response or resistance to imatinib. In newly diagnosed patients with chronic phase CML, the rate of resistance to imatinib at 4 years was up to 20%, increasing to 70% to 90% for patients in the accelerated/blastic phase. Resistance to imatinib led to the development of novel TK inhibitors such as dasatinib. Several clinical trials have reported more durable complete hematologic and cytogenetic responses with this agent in patients who are resistant or intolerant to imatinib. Dasatinib is well tolerated and has broad efficacy, resulting in durable responses in patients with any BCR-ABL mutation except for T3151 and mutations in codon 317 – most commonly F317L – including mutations that were highly resistant to imatinib, such as L248, Y253, E255, F359, and H396. Dasatinib is recommended for CML in chronic, blastic or accelerated phase that is resistant or intolerant to imatinib. Dasatinib was approved by the FDA at 100 mg once daily as the starting dose in patients with chronic phase CML and at 70 mg twice daily in patients with accelerated or blastic phase CML. Various clinical trial results provided evidence that resistance to one TK inhibitor can be reversed with the use of a different TK inhibitor (TKI). Other second-generation TKIs with activity in CML include nilotinib, bosutinib and INNO 406. New molecules, such as the inhibitor of Aurora family serine-threonine kinases, MK0457, which has antileukemic activity in CML associated with a T315I mutation, are being investigated. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation remains an option for selected patients.
PMCID: PMC2697539  PMID: 19536317
dasatininb; chronic myeloid leukemia; BCR-ABL; tyrosine kinase inhibitor
2.  The effect of the dual Src/Abl kinase inhibitor AZD0530 on Philadelphia positive leukaemia cell lines 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:53.
Imatinib mesylate, a selective inhibitor of Abl tyrosine kinase, is efficacious in treating chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). However, most advanced-phase CML and Ph+ ALL patients relapse on Imatinib therapy. Several mechanisms of refractoriness have been reported, including the activation of the Src-family kinases (SFK). Here, we investigated the biological effect of the new specific dual Src/Abl kinase inhibitor AZD0530 on Ph+ leukaemic cells.
Cell lines used included BV173 (CML in myeloid blast crisis), SEM t(4;11), Ba/F3 (IL-3 dependent murine pro B), p185Bcr-Abl infected Ba/F3 cells, p185Bcr-Abl mutant infected Ba/F3 cells, SupB15 (Ph+ ALL) and Imatinib resistant SupB15 (RTSupB15) (Ph+ ALL) cells. Cells were exposed to AZD0530 and Imatinib. Cell proliferation, apoptosis, survival and signalling pathways were assessed by dye exclusion, flow cytometry and Western blotting respectively.
AZD0530 specifically inhibited the growth of, and induced apoptosis in CML and Ph+ ALL cells in a dose dependent manner, but showed only marginal effects on Ph- ALL cells. Resistance to Imatinib due to the mutation Y253F in p185Bcr-Abl was overcome by AZD0530. Combination of AZD0530 and Imatinib showed an additive inhibitory effect on the proliferation of CML BV173 cells but not on Ph+ ALL SupB15 cells. An ongoing transphosphorylation was demonstrated between SFKs and Bcr-Abl. AZD0530 significantly down-regulated the activation of survival signalling pathways in Ph+ cells, resistant or sensitive to Imatinib, with the exception of the RTSupB15.
Our results indicate that AZD0530 targets both Src and Bcr-Abl kinase activity and reduces the leukaemic maintenance by Bcr-Abl.
PMCID: PMC2654659  PMID: 19216789
3.  ReSETting PP2A tumour suppressor activity in blast crisis and imatinib-resistant chronic myelogenous leukaemia 
British Journal of Cancer  2006;95(7):775-781.
The deregulated kinase activity of p210-BCR/ABL oncoproteins, hallmark of chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML), induces and sustains the leukaemic phenotype, and contributes to disease progression. Imatinib mesylate, a BCR/ABL kinase inhibitor, is effective in most of chronic phase CML patients. However, a significant percentage of CML patients develop resistance to imatinib and/or still progresses to blast crisis, a disease stage that is often refractory to imatinib therapy. Furthermore, there is compelling evidence indicating that the CML leukaemia stem cell is also resistant to imatinib. Thus, there is still a need for new drugs that, if combined with imatinib, will decrease the rate of relapse, fully overcome imatinib resistance and prevent blastic transformation of CML. We recently reported that the activity of the tumour suppressor protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is markedly inhibited in blast crisis CML patient cells and that molecular or pharmacologic re-activation of PP2A phosphatase led to growth suppression, enhanced apoptosis, impaired clonogenic potential and decreased in vivo leukaemogenesis of imatinib-sensitive and -resistant (T315I included) CML-BC patient cells and/or BCR/ABL+ myeloid progenitor cell lines. Thus, the combination of PP2A phosphatase-activating and BCR/ABL kinase-inhibiting drugs may represent a powerful therapeutic strategy for blast crisis CML patients.
PMCID: PMC2360538  PMID: 16953242
PP2A; SET; BCR/ABL; CML; forskolin; leukaemia
4.  Threshold levels of ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors retained in chronic myeloid leukemia cells define commitment to apoptosis 
Cancer research  2013;73(11):3356-3370.
The imatinib paradigm in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) established continuous BCR-ABL inhibition as a design principle for ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, clinical responses seen in patients treated with the ABL TKI dasatinib despite its much shorter plasma half-life and the apparent rapid restoration of BCR-ABL signaling activity following once-daily dosing suggested acute, potent inhibition of kinase activity may be sufficient to irrevocably commit CML cells to apoptosis. To determine the specific requirements for ABL TKI-induced CML cell death for a panel of clinically important ABL TKIs (imatinib, nilotinib, dasatinib, ponatinib, and DCC-2036), we interrogated response of CML cell lines and primary CML cells following acute drug exposure using intracellular FACS and immunoblot analyses of BCR-ABL signaling, apoptosis measurements, liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry of intracellular drug levels, and biochemical TKI dissociation studies. Importantly, significant intracellular TKI stores were detected following drug washout, levels of which tracked with onset of apoptosis and incomplete return of BCR-ABL signaling, particularly pSTAT5, to baseline. Among TKIs tested, ponatinib demonstrated the most robust capacity for apoptotic commitment showing sustained suppression of BCR-ABL signaling even at low intracellular levels following extensive washout, consistent with high-affinity binding and slow dissociation from ABL kinase. Together, our findings suggest commitment of CML cells to apoptosis requires protracted incomplete restoration of BCR-ABL signaling mediated by intracellular retention of TKIs above a quantifiable threshold. These studies refine our understanding of apoptotic commitment in CML cells and highlight parameters important to design of therapeutic kinase inhibitors for CML and other malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3674150  PMID: 23576564
5.  KIT signaling governs differential sensitivity of mature and primitive CML progenitors to tyrosine kinase inhibitors 
Cancer research  2013;73(18):5775-5786.
Imatinib and other BCR-ABL1 inhibitors are effective therapies for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), but these inhibitors target additional kinases including KIT, raising the question of whether off-target effects contribute to clinical efficacy. Based on its involvement in CML pathogenesis, we hypothesized that KIT may govern responses of CML cells to imatinib. To test this, we assessed the growth of primary CML progenitor cells under conditions of sole BCR-ABL1, sole KIT and dual BCR-ABL1/KIT inhibition. Sole BCR-ABL1 inhibition suppressed mature CML progenitor cells, but these effects were largely abolished by stem cell factor (SCF) and maximal suppression required dual BCR-ABL1/KIT inhibition. In contrast, KIT inhibition did not add to the effects of BCR-ABL1 inhibition in primitive progenitors, represented by CD34+38− cells. Long term culture-initiating cell (LTC-IC) assays on murine stroma revealed profound depletion of primitive CML cells by sole BCR-ABL1 inhibition despite the presence of SCF, suggesting primitive CML cells are unable to use SCF as a survival factor upon BCR-ABL1 inhibition. In CD34+38+ cells, SCF strongly induced pAKTS473 in a phosphatidylinositol 3′ kinase (PI3K)-dependent manner, which was further enhanced by inhibition of BCR-ABL1 and associated with increased colony survival. In contrast, pAKTS473 levels remained low in CD34+38− cells cultured under the same conditions. Consistent with reduced response to SCF, KIT surface expression was significantly lower on CD34+38− compared to CD34+38+ CML cells, suggesting a possible mechanism for the differential effects of SCF on mature and primitive CML progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3894913  PMID: 23887971
6.  Gambogic Acid Induces Apoptosis in Imatinib-Resistant Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells via Inducing Proteasome Inhibition and Caspase-Dependent Bcr-Abl Downregulation 
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized by the constitutive activation of Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase. Bcr-Abl-T315I is the predominant mutation that causes resistance to imatinib, cytotoxic drugs, and the second-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The emergence of imatinib resistance in patients with CML leads to searching for novel approaches to the treatment of CML. Gambogic acid, a small molecule derived from Chinese herb gamboges, has been approved for phase II clinical trial for cancer therapy by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this study, we investigated the effect of gambogic acid on cell survival or apoptosis in CML cells bearing Bcr-Abl-T315I or wild-type Bcr-Abl.
Experimental Design
CML cell lines (KBM5, KBM5-T315I, and K562), primary cells from patients with CML with clinical resistance to imatinib, and normal monocytes from healthy volunteers were treated with gambogic acid, imatinib, or their combination, followed by measuring the effects on cell growth, apoptosis, and signal pathways. The in vivo antitumor activity of gambogic acid and its combination with imatinib was also assessed with nude xenografts.
Gambogic acid induced apoptosis and cell proliferation inhibition in CML cells and inhibited the growth of imatinib-resistant Bcr-Abl-T315I xenografts in nude mice. Our data suggest that GA-induced proteasome inhibition is required for caspase activation in both imatinib-resistant and -sensitive CML cells, and caspase activation is required for gambogic acid–induced Bcr-Abl downregulation and apoptotic cell death.
These findings suggest an alternative strategy to overcome imatinib resistance by enhancing Bcr-Abl downregulation with the medicinal compound gambogic acid, which may have great clinical significance in imatinib-resistant cancer therapy.
PMCID: PMC3938960  PMID: 24334603
7.  Destabilization of Bcr-Abl/Jak2 Network by a Jak2/Abl Kinase Inhibitor ON044580 Overcomes Drug Resistance in Blast Crisis Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) 
Genes & Cancer  2010;1(4):346-359.
Bcr-Abl is the predominant therapeutic target in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that inhibit Bcr-Abl have been successful in treating CML. With progression of CML disease especially in blast crisis stage, cells from CML patients become resistant to imatinib mesylate (IM) and other TKIs, resulting in relapse. Because Bcr-Abl is known to drive multiple signaling pathways, the study of the regulation of stability of Bcr-Abl in IM-resistant CML cells is a critical issue as a possible therapeutic strategy. Here, we report that a new dual-kinase chemical inhibitor, ON044580, induced apoptosis of Bcr-Abl+ IM-sensitive, IM-resistant cells, including the gatekeeper Bcr-Abl mutant, T315I, and also cells from blast crisis patients. In addition, IM-resistant K562-R cells, cells from blast crisis CML patients, and all IM-resistant cell lines tested had reduced ability to form colonies in soft agar in the presence of 0.5 µM ON044580. In in vitro kinase assays, ON044580 inhibited the recombinant Jak2 and Abl kinase activities when the respective Jak2 and Abl peptides were used as substrates. Incubation of the Bcr-Abl+ cells with ON044580 rapidly reduced the levels of the Bcr-Abl protein and also reduced the expression of HSP90 and its client protein levels. Lysates of Bcr-Abl+ cell lines were found to contain a large signaling network complex composed of Bcr-Abl, Jak2, HSP90, and its client proteins as detected by a gel filtration column chromatography, which was rapidly disrupted by ON044580. Therefore, targeting Jak2 and Bcr-Abl kinases is an effective way to destabilize Bcr-Abl and its network complex, which leads to the onset of apoptosis in IM-sensitive and IM-resistant Bcr-Abl+ cells. This inhibitory strategy has potential to manage all types of drug-resistant CML cells, especially at the terminal blast crisis stage of CML, where TKIs are not clinically useful.
PMCID: PMC2927857  PMID: 20798787
CML; Bcr-Abl; Jak2; drug resistance; apoptosis
8.  Destabilization of Bcr-Abl/Jak2 Network by a Jak2/Abl Kinase Inhibitor ON044580 Overcomes Drug Resistance in Blast Crisis Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) 
Genes & cancer  2010;1(4):346-359.
Bcr-Abl is the predominant therapeutic target in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that inhibit Bcr-Abl have been successful in treating CML. With progression of CML disease especially in blast crisis stage, cells from CML patients become resistant to imatinib mesylate (IM) and other TKIs, resulting in relapse. Because Bcr-Abl is known to drive multiple signaling pathways, the study of the regulation of stability of Bcr-Abl in IM-resistant CML cells is a critical issue as a possible therapeutic strategy. Here, we report that a new dual-kinase chemical inhibitor, ON044580, induced apoptosis of Bcr-Abl+ IM-sensitive, IM-resistant cells, including the gatekeeper Bcr-Abl mutant, T315I, and also cells from blast crisis patients. In addition, IM-resistant K562-R cells, cells from blast crisis CML patients, and all IM-resistant cell lines tested had reduced ability to form colonies in soft agar in the presence of 0.5 µM ON044580. In in vitro kinase assays, ON044580 inhibited the recombinant Jak2 and Abl kinase activities when the respective Jak2 and Abl peptides were used as substrates. Incubation of the Bcr-Abl+ cells with ON044580 rapidly reduced the levels of the Bcr-Abl protein and also reduced the expression of HSP90 and its client protein levels. Lysates of Bcr-Abl+ cell lines were found to contain a large signaling network complex composed of Bcr-Abl, Jak2, HSP90, and its client proteins as detected by a gel filtration column chromatography, which was rapidly disrupted by ON044580. Therefore, targeting Jak2 and Bcr-Abl kinases is an effective way to destabilize Bcr-Abl and its network complex, which leads to the onset of apoptosis in IM-sensitive and IM-resistant Bcr-Abl+ cells. This inhibitory strategy has potential to manage all types of drug-resistant CML cells, especially at the terminal blast crisis stage of CML, where TKIs are not clinically useful.
PMCID: PMC2927857  PMID: 20798787
CML; Bcr-Abl; Jak2; drug resistance; apoptosis
9.  Fangchinoline induces G0/G1 arrest by modulating the expression of CDKN1A and CCND2 in K562 human chronic myelogenous leukemia cells 
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is a hematopoietic stem cell disease caused by the oncoprotein BCR-ABL, which exhibits a constitutive tyrosine kinase activity. Imatinib mesylate (IM), an inhibitor of the tyrosine kinase activity of BCR-ABL, has been used as a first-line therapy for CML. However, IM is less effective in the accelerated phase and blastic phases of CML and certain patients develop IM resistance due to the mutation and amplification of the BCR-ABL gene. Fangchinoline, an important chemical constituent from the dried roots of Stephaniae tetrandrae S. Moore, exhibits significant antitumor activity in various types of cancers, including breast, prostate and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the effects and the underlying mechanisms of fangchinoline in CML remain unclear. In the present study, we identified that fangchinoline inhibits cell proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner in K562 cells derived from the blast crisis of CML. Additional experiments revealed that fangchinoline induces cell cycle arrest at the G0/G1 phase and has no effect on apoptosis, which is mediated through the upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-N1A and MCL-1 mRNA levels, as well as the downregulation of cyclin D2 (CCND2) mRNA levels. These findings suggest the potential of fangchinoline as an effective antitumor agent in CML.
PMCID: PMC3627453  PMID: 23596478
fangchinoline; chronic myelogenous leukemia; G0/G1 arrest; cyclin-dependent kinase N1A; cyclin D2
10.  ATRA-Induced Cellular Differentiation and CD38 Expression Inhibits Acquisition of BCR-ABL Mutations for CML Acquired Resistance 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004414.
Acquired resistance through genetic mutations is a major obstacle in targeted cancer therapy, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we studied mechanisms of acquired resistance of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) by examining genome-wide gene expression changes in KCL-22 CML cells versus their resistant KCL-22M cells that acquire T315I BCR-ABL mutation following TKI exposure. Although T315I BCR-ABL is sufficient to confer resistance to TKIs in CML cells, surprisingly we found that multiple drug resistance pathways were activated in KCL-22M cells along with reduced expression of a set of myeloid differentiation genes. Forced myeloid differentiation by all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) effectively blocked acquisition of BCR-ABL mutations and resistance to the TKIs imatinib, nilotinib or dasatinib in our previously described in vitro models of acquired TKI resistance. ATRA induced robust expression of CD38, a cell surface marker and cellular NADase. High levels of CD38 reduced intracellular nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) levels and blocked acquired resistance by inhibiting the activity of the NAD+-dependent SIRT1 deacetylase that we have previously shown to promote resistance in CML cells by facilitating error-prone DNA damage repair. Consequently, ATRA treatment decreased DNA damage repair and suppressed acquisition of BCR-ABL mutations. This study sheds novel insight into mechanisms underlying acquired resistance in CML, and suggests potential benefit of combining ATRA with TKIs in treating CML, particularly in advanced phases.
Author Summary
Acquired resistance through genetic mutations is a major mechanism for cancer drug resistance and accounts for the short life of targeted therapy in several types of human cancer. Mechanistically, however, very little is understood about how resistant mutations are actually acquired during cancer therapy. In this manuscript, we used chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) as a disease model and showed that mutation acquisition process is accompanied by global genome transcriptional reprogramming and reduction of cellular differentiation status. Forced cell differentiation by all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) potently blocks acquisition of genetic mutations and CML acquired resistance. ATRA effect is mediated, in part, through stimulating CD38 gene expression, which reduces cellular cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) content and thus the activity of NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase SIRT1 that promotes error-prone DNA damage repair and mutagenesis. Our findings provide novel insight of mutation acquisition process during targeted therapy for CML. This study has translational implication in clinical treatment of CML, and perhaps other malignancies, by combining a differentiation agent to overcome mutation-mediated drug resistance if possible.
PMCID: PMC4072521  PMID: 24967705
11.  Chaetocin antileukemia activity against chronic myelogenous leukemia cells is potentiated by bone marrow stromal factors and overcomes innate imatinib resistance 
Oncogenesis  2014;3(10):e122-.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is maintained by a minor population of leukemic stem cells (LSCs) that exhibit innate resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting BCR-ABL. Innate resistance can be induced by secreted bone marrow stromal cytokines and growth factors (BMSFs) that protect CML-LSCs from TKIs, resulting in minimal residual disease. Developing strategies to eradicate innate TKI resistance in LSCs is critical for preventing disease relapse. Cancer cells balance reactive oxygen species (ROS) at higher than normal levels, promoting their proliferation and survival, but also making them susceptible to damage by ROS-generating agents. Bcr-Abl increases cellular ROS levels, which can be reduced with TKI inhibitors, whereas, BMSFs increase ROS levels. We hypothesized that BMSF-mediated increases in ROS would trigger ROS damage in TKI-treated CML-LSCs when exposed to chaetocin, a mycotoxin that imposes oxidative stress by inhibiting thioredoxin reductase-1. Here, we showed that chaetocin suppressed viability and colony formation, and induced apoptosis of the murine hematopoietic cell line TonB210 with and without Bcr-Abl expression, and these effects were potentiated by BMSFs. In contrast, imatinib activities in Bcr-Abl-positive TonB210 cells were inhibited by BMSFs. Further, BMSFs did not inhibit imatinib activities when TonB210 cells expressing Bcr-Abl were cotreated with chaetocin. Chaetocin showed similar activities against LSC-enriched CML cell populations isolated from a murine transplant model of CML blast crisis that were phenotypically negative for lineage markers and positive for Sca-1 and c-Kit (CML-LSK). BMSFs and chaetocin increased ROS in CML-LSK cells and addition of BMSFs and chaetocin resulted in higher levels compared with chaetocin or BMSF treatment alone. Pretreatment of CML-LSKs with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine blocked chaetocin cytotoxicity, even in the presence of BMSFs, demonstrating the importance ROS for chaetocin activities. Chaetocin effects on self-renewal of CML-LSKs were assessed by transplanting CML-LSKs into secondary recipients following ex vivo exposure to chaetocin, in the presence or absence of BMSFs. Disease latency in mice transplanted with CML-LSKs following chaetocin treatment more than doubled compared with untreated CML-LSKs or BMSFs-treated CML-LSKs. Mice transplanted with CML-LSKs following chaetocin treatment in the presence of BMSFs had significantly extended survival time compared with mice transplanted with CML-LSKs treated with chaetocin alone. Our findings indicate that chaetocin activity against CML-LSKs is significantly enhanced in the presence of BMSFs and suggest that chaetocin may be effective as a codrug to complement TKIs in CML treatment by disrupting the innate resistance of CML-LSKs through an ROS dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4216903  PMID: 25329721
12.  Nilotinib: optimal therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and resistance or intolerance to imatinib 
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is the consequence of a single balanced translocation that produces the BCR-ABL fusion oncogene which is detectable in over 90% of patients at presentation. The BCR-ABL inhibitor imatinib mesylate (IM) has improved survival in all phases of CML and is the standard of care for newly diagnosed patients in chronic phase. Despite the very significant therapeutic benefits of IM, a small minority of patients with early stage disease do not benefit optimally while IM therapy in patients with advanced disease is of modest benefit in many. Diverse mechanisms may be responsible for IM failures, with point mutations within the Bcr-Abl kinase domain being amongst the most common resistance mechanisms described in patients with advanced CML. The development of novel agents designed to overcome IM resistance, while still primarily targeted on BCR-ABL, led to the creation of the high affinity aminopyrimidine inhibitor, nilotinib. Nilotinib is much more potent as a BCR-ABL inhibitor than IM and inhibits both wild type and IM-resistant BCR-ABL with significant clinical activity across the entire spectrum of BCR-ABL mutants with the exception of T315I. The selection of a second generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor to rescue patients with imatinib failure will be based on several factors including age, co-morbid medical problems and ABL kinase mutational profile. It should be noted that while the use of targeted BCR-ABL kinase inhibitors in CML represents a paradigm shift in CML management these agents are not likely to have activity against the quiescent CML stem cell pool. The purpose of this review is to summarize the pre-clinical and clinical data on nilotinib in patients with CML who have failed prior therapy with IM or dasatinib.
PMCID: PMC2769239  PMID: 19920925
nilotinib; chronic myeloid leukemia; imatinib
13.  Proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induction of imatinib-resistant chronic myeloid leukemia cells via PPP2R5C down-regulation 
Despite the success of imatinib and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) remains largely incurable, and a number of CML patients die due to Abl mutation-related drug resistance and blast crisis. The aim of this study was to evaluate proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induction by down-regulating PPP2R5C gene expression in the imatinib-sensitive and imatinib-resistant CML cell lines K562, K562R (imatinib resistant without an Abl gene mutation), 32D-Bcr-Abl WT (imatinib-sensitive murine CML cell line with a wild type Abl gene) and 32D-Bcr-Abl T315I (imatinib resistant with a T315I Abl gene mutation) and primary cells from CML patients by RNA interference. PPP2R5C siRNAs numbered 799 and 991 were obtained by chemosynthesis. Non-silencing siRNA scrambled control (SC)-treated, mock-transfected, and untreated cells were used as controls. The PPP2R5C mRNA and protein expression levels in treated CML cells were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR and Western blotting, and in vitro cell proliferation was assayed with the cell counting kit-8 method. The morphology and percentage of apoptosis were revealed by Hoechst 33258 staining and flow cytometry (FCM). The results demonstrated that both siRNAs had the best silencing results after nucleofection in all four cell lines and primary cells. A reduction in PPP2R5C mRNA and protein levels was observed in the treated cells. The proliferation rate of the PPP2R5C-siRNA-treated CML cell lines was significantly decreased at 72 h, and apoptosis was significantly increased. Significantly higher proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induction were found in K562R cells treated with PPP2R5C-siRNA799 than K562 cells. In conclusion, the suppression of PPP2R5C by RNA interference could inhibit proliferation and effectively induce apoptosis in CML cells that were either imatinib sensitive or resistant. Down-regulating PPP2R5C gene expression might be considered as a new therapeutic target strategy for CML, particularly for imatinib-resistant CML.
PMCID: PMC3847136  PMID: 24004697
CML; Imatinib resistant; PPP2R5C; RNA interference; Apoptosis; Cell proliferation
14.  Association Between Imatinib-Resistant BCR-ABL Mutation-Negative Leukemia and Persistent Activation of LYN Kinase 
Imatinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). BCR-ABL mutations are associated with failure of imatinib treatment in many CML patients. LYN kinase regulates survival and responsiveness of CML cells to inhibition of BCR-ABL kinase, and differences in LYN regulation have been found between imatinib-sensitive and -resistant CML cell lines.
We evaluated cells from 12 imatinib-resistant CML patients with mutation-negative BCR-ABL and from six imatinib-sensitive patients who discontinued therapy because of imatinib intolerance. Phosphorylation of BCR-ABL and LYN was assessed in patient cells and cell lines by immunoblotting with activation state–specific antibodies, co-immunoprecipitation studies, and mass spectroscopy analysis of phosphopeptides. Cell viability, caspase activation, and apoptosis were also measured. Mutations were analyzed by sequencing. The effect of silencing LYN with short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or reducing activation by treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors was evaluated in cell lines and patient cells.
Imatinib treatment suppressed LYN phosphorylation in cells from imatinib-sensitive CML patients and imatinib-sensitive cell lines. Imatinib treatment blocked BCR-ABL signaling but did not suppress LYN phosphorylation in cells from imatinib-resistant patients, and persistent activation of LYN kinase was not associated with mutations in LYN kinase or its carboxyl-terminal regulatory domains. Unique LYN phosphorylation sites (tyrosine-193 and tyrosine-459) and associated proteins (c-Cbl and p80) were identified in cells from imatinib-resistant patients. Reducing LYN expression (siRNA) or activation (dasatinib) was associated with loss of cell survival and cytogenetic or complete hematologic responses in imatinib-resistant disease.
LYN activation was independent of BCR-ABL in cells from imatinib-resistant patients. Thus, LYN kinase may be involved in imatinib resistance in CML patients with mutation-negative BCR-ABL and its direct inhibition is consistent with clinical responses in these patients.
PMCID: PMC2902818  PMID: 18577747
15.  Targeting autophagy potentiates tyrosine kinase inhibitor–induced cell death in Philadelphia chromosome–positive cells, including primary CML stem cells 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(5):1109-1123.
Imatinib mesylate (IM), a potent inhibitor of the BCR/ABL tyrosine kinase, has become standard first-line therapy for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), but the frequency of resistance increases in advancing stages of disease. Elimination of BCR/ABL-dependent intracellular signals triggers apoptosis, but it is unclear whether this activates additional cell survival and/or death pathways. We have shown here that IM induces autophagy in CML blast crisis cell lines, CML primary cells, and p210BCR/ABL-expressing myeloid precursor cells. IM-induced autophagy did not involve c-Abl or Bcl-2 activity but was associated with ER stress and was suppressed by depletion of intracellular Ca2+, suggesting it is mechanistically nonoverlapping with IM-induced apoptosis. We further demonstrated that suppression of autophagy using either pharmacological inhibitors or RNA interference of essential autophagy genes enhanced cell death induced by IM in cell lines and primary CML cells. Critically, the combination of a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), i.e., IM, nilotinib, or dasatinib, with inhibitors of autophagy resulted in near complete elimination of phenotypically and functionally defined CML stem cells. Together, these findings suggest that autophagy inhibitors may enhance the therapeutic effects of TKIs in the treatment of CML.
PMCID: PMC2673867  PMID: 19363292
16.  Evi1 defines leukemia-initiating capacity and tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance in chronic myeloid leukemia 
Oncogene  2014;33(42):5028-5038.
Relapse of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is triggered by stem cells with a reconstituting capacity similar to that of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and CML stem cells are a source of resistance in drug therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Ecotropic viral integration site 1 (EVI1), a key transcription factor in HSC regulation, is known to predict poor outcomes in myeloid malignancies, however, incapability of prospective isolation of EVI1-high leukemic cells precludes the functional evaluation of intraindividual EVI1-high cells. Introduction of CML into Evi1-internal ribosomal entry site (IRES)-green fluorescent protein (GFP) knock-in mice, a versatile HSC-reporter strain, enables us to separate Evi1-high CML cells from the individual. Evi1-IRES-GFP allele models of CML in chronic phase (CML-CP), by retroviral overexpression of BCR–ABL and by crossing BCR–ABL transgenic mice, revealed that Evi1 is predominantly enriched in the stem cell fraction and associated with an enhanced proliferative as well as a leukemia-initiating capacity and that Evi1-high CML-CP cells exhibit resistance to TKIs. Overexpressing BCR–ABL and NUP98–HOXA9 in Evi1-IRES-GFP knock-in mice to model CML in blast crisis (CML-BC), in which Evi1-high cells turned to be a major population as opposed to a minor population in CML-CP models, showed that Evi1-high CML-BC cells have a greater potential to recapitulate the disease and appear resistant to TKIs. Furthermore, given that Evi1 heterozygosity ameliorates CML-CP and CML-BC development and that the combination of Evi1 and BCR–ABL causes acute myeloid leukemia resembling CML-BC, Evi1 could regulate CML development as a potent driver. In addition, in human CML-CP cases, we show that EVI1 is highly expressed in stem cell-enriched CD34+CD38–CD90+ fraction at single-cell level. This is the first report to clarify directly that Evi1-high leukemic cells themselves possess the superior potential to Evi1-low cells in oncogenic self-renewal, which highlights the role of Evi1 as a valuable and a functional marker of CML stem cells.
PMCID: PMC4217142  PMID: 24747972
17.  Imatinib in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: an Overview 
Imatinib was the first signal transduction inhibitor (STI), used in a clinical setting. It prevents a BCR-ABL protein from exerting its role in the oncogenic pathway in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Imatinib directly inhibits the constitutive tyrosine kinase activity. Imatinib binds to BCR-ABL kinase domain by preventing the transfer of a phosphate group to tyrosine on the protein substrate and the subsequent activation of phosphorylated protein. As the result, the transmission of proliferative signals to the nucleus is blocked and leukemic cell apoptosis is induced. The FDA has approved imatinib as first-line treatment for newly diagnosed CML in December 2002 following an International Randomized Study (IRIS), initiated in June 2000, comparing imatinib at a single daily dose 400 mg to IFN alpha plus cytarabine in newly diagnosed patients with CML in CP. Results from this study show the outstanding effectiveness of imatinib and its superiority with respect to the rates of complete hematological response (CHR), major and complete cytogenetic response (MCyR, CCyR). Patients randomized to imatinib arm at 8 – year data cut off continue to have a durable hematologic and cytogenetic responses, low progression rates to AP or BC, and remarkable survival outcomes. An overall survival (OS) rate is 85% for patients receiving imatinib (93% when only CML-related deaths and those prior to stem cell transplantation are considered). The results have been confirmed in the last years by several groups. According these cumulative results the rates of CCyR achieved after one year of therapy with imatinib at standard dose ranged from 49% to 77%, and the proportion of patients who achieved major molecular response (MMR) after one year ranged between 18% and 58%. Discontinuation of imatinib has been also tried in patients in MMR, a molecular relapse occurs in about one third of patients, generally within 6 months from imatinib cessation.
PMCID: PMC3894842  PMID: 24455116
18.  Pristimerin induces apoptosis in imatinib-resistant chronic myelogenous leukemia cells harboring T315I mutation by blocking NF-κB signaling and depleting Bcr-Abl 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:112.
Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized by the chimeric tyrosine kinase Bcr-Abl. Bcr-Abl-T315I is the notorious point mutation that causes resistance to imatinib and the second generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors, leading to poor prognosis. CML blasts have constitutive p65 (RelA NF-κB) transcriptional activity, and NF-κB may be a potential target for molecular therapies in CML that may also be effective against CML cells with Bcr-Abl-T315I.
In this report, we discovered that pristimerin, a quinonemethide triterpenoid isolated from Celastraceae and Hippocrateaceae, inhibited growth and induced apoptosis in CML cells, including the cells harboring Bcr-Abl-T315I mutation. Additionally, pristimerin inhibited the growth of imatinib-resistant Bcr-Abl-T315I xenografts in nude mice. Pristimerin blocked the TNFα-induced IκBα phosphorylation, translocation of p65, and expression of NF-κB-regulated genes. Pristimerin inhibited two steps in NF-κB signaling: TAK1→IKK and IKK→IκBα. Pristimerin potently inhibited two pairs of CML cell lines (KBM5 versus KBM5-T315I, 32D-Bcr-Abl versus 32D-Bcr-Abl-T315I) and primary cells from a CML patient with acquired resistance to imatinib. The mRNA and protein levels of Bcr-Abl in imatinib-sensitive (KBM5) or imatinib-resistant (KBM5-T315I) CML cells were reduced after pristimerin treatment. Further, inactivation of Bcr-Abl by imatinib pretreatment did not abrogate the TNFα-induced NF-κB activation while silencing p65 by siRNA did not affect the levels of Bcr-Abl, both results together indicating that NF-κB inactivation and Bcr-Abl inhibition may be parallel independent pathways.
To our knowledge, this is the first report to show that pristimerin is effective in vitro and in vivo against CML cells, including those with the T315I mutation. The mechanisms may involve inhibition of NF-κB and Bcr-Abl. We concluded that pristimerin could be a lead compound for further drug development to overcome imatinib resistance in CML patients.
PMCID: PMC2893099  PMID: 20482842
19.  Proteasome Inhibition Causes Regression of Leukemia and Abrogates BCR-ABL-Induced Evasion of Apoptosis in Part Through Regulation of Forkhead Tumor Suppressors 
Cancer research  2009;69(16):6546-6555.
BCR-ABL plays an essential role in the pathogenesis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and some cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Even though ABL kinase inhibitors have shown great promise in the treatment of CML, the persistence of residual disease and the occurrence of resistance have prompted investigations into the molecular effectors of BCR-ABL. Here we show that BCR-ABL stimulates the proteasome-dependent degradation of members of the Forkhead family of tumor suppressors in vitro, in an in vivo animal model, and in samples from patients with BCR-ABL-positive CML or ALL. As several downstream mediators of BCR-ABL are regulated by the proteasome degradation pathway, we also demonstrate that inhibition of this pathway, using bortezomib, causes regression of CML-like disease. Bortezomib treatment led to inhibition of BCR-ABL-induced suppression of FoxO proteins and their pro-apoptotic targets, TNF-Related Apoptosis Inducing Ligand (TRAIL) and BIM, thereby providing novel insights into the molecular effects of proteasome inhibitor therapy. We additionally show sensitivity of imatinib resistant BCR-ABL T315I cells to bortezomib. Our data delineates the involvement of FoxO proteins in BCR-ABL-induced evasion of apoptosis and provides evidence that bortezomib is a candidate therapeutic in the treatment of BCR-ABL-induced leukemia.
PMCID: PMC2763358  PMID: 19654305
BCR-ABL; Bim; Bortezomib; FoxO; Proteasome; TRAIL
20.  AHI-1 interacts with BCR-ABL and modulates BCR-ABL transforming activity and imatinib response of CML stem/progenitor cells 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2008;205(11):2657-2671.
Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) represents the first human malignancy successfully treated with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI; imatinib). However, early relapses and the emergence of imatinib-resistant disease are problematic. Evidence suggests that imatinib and other inhibitors may not effectively eradicate leukemic stem/progenitor cells, and that combination therapy directed to complimentary targets may improve treatment. Abelson helper integration site 1 (Ahi-1)/AHI-1 is a novel oncogene that is highly deregulated in CML stem/progenitor cells where levels of BCR-ABL transcripts are also elevated. Here, we demonstrate that overexpression of Ahi-1/AHI-1 in murine and human hematopoietic cells confer growth advantages in vitro and induce leukemia in vivo, enhancing effects of BCR-ABL. Conversely, RNAi-mediated suppression of AHI-1 in BCR-ABL–transduced lin−CD34+ human cord blood cells and primary CML stem/progenitor cells reduces their growth autonomy in vitro. Interestingly, coexpression of Ahi-1 in BCR-ABL–inducible cells reverses growth deficiencies exhibited by BCR-ABL down-regulation and is associated with sustained phosphorylation of BCR-ABL and enhanced activation of JAK2–STAT5. Moreover, we identified an AHI-1–BCR-ABL–JAK2 interaction complex and found that modulation of AHI-1 expression regulates phosphorylation of BCR-ABL and JAK2–STAT5 in CML cells. Importantly, this complex mediates TKI response/resistance of CML stem/progenitor cells. These studies implicate AHI-1 as a potential therapeutic target downstream of BCR-ABL in CML.
PMCID: PMC2571939  PMID: 18936234
21.  Stat3 contributes to resistance toward BCR-ABL inhibitors in a bone marrow microenvironment model of drug resistance 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2008;7(10):3169-3175.
Imatinib mesylate is a potent, molecularly targeted therapy against the oncogenic tyrosine kinase BCR-ABL. Although imatinib mesylate has considerable efficacy against chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), advanced-stage CML patients frequently become refractory to this agent. The bone marrow is the predominant microenvironment of CML and is a rich source of both soluble factors and extracellular matrices, which may influence drug response. To address the influence of the bone marrow microenvironment on imatinib mesylate sensitivity, we used an in vitro coculture bone marrow stroma model. Our data show culturing K562 cells, in bone marrow stroma-derived conditioned medium (CM), is sufficient to cause resistance to BCR-ABL inhibitors. Drug resistance correlated with increased pTyrStat3, whereas no increases in pTyrStat5 were noted. Moreover, resistance was associated with increased levels of the Stat3 target genes Bcl-xl, Mcl-1, and survivin. Finally, reducing Stat3 levels with small interfering RNA sensitized K562 cells cultured in CM to imatinib mesylate-induced cell death. Importantly, Stat3 dependency was specific for cells grown in CM, as reducing Stat3 levels in regular growth conditions had no effect on imatinib mesylate sensitivity. Together, these data support a novel mechanism of BCR-ABL-independent imatinib mesylate resistance and provide preclinical rationale for using Stat3 inhibitors to increase the efficacy of imatinib mesylate within the context of the bone marrow microenvironment.
PMCID: PMC2676735  PMID: 18852120
22.  FTY720, a new alternative for treating blast crisis chronic myelogenous leukemia and Philadelphia chromosome–positive acute lymphocytic leukemia 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(9):2408-2421.
Blast crisis chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML-BC) and Philadelphia chromosome–positive (Ph1-positive) acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) are 2 fatal BCR/ABL-driven leukemias against which Abl kinase inhibitors fail to induce a long-term response. We recently reported that functional loss of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) activity is important for CML blastic transformation. We assessed the therapeutic potential of the PP2A activator FTY720 (2-amino-2-[2-(4-octylphenyl)ethyl]-1,3-propanediol hydrochloride), an immunomodulator in Phase III trials for patients with multiple sclerosis or undergoing organ transplantation, in CML-BC and Ph1 ALL patient cells and in in vitro and in vivo models of these BCR/ABL+ leukemias. Our data indicate that FTY720 induces apoptosis and impairs clonogenicity of imatinib/dasatinib-sensitive and -resistant p210/p190BCR/ABL myeloid and lymphoid cell lines and CML-BCCD34+ and Ph1 ALLCD34+/CD19+ progenitors but not of normal CD34+ and CD34+/CD19+ bone marrow cells. Furthermore, pharmacologic doses of FTY720 remarkably suppress in vivo p210/p190BCR/ABL-driven [including p210/p190BCR/ABL (T315I)] leukemogenesis without exerting any toxicity. Altogether, these results highlight the therapeutic relevance of rescuing PP2A tumor suppressor activity in Ph1 leukemias and strongly support the introduction of the PP2A activator FTY720 in the treatment of CML-BC and Ph1 ALL patients.
PMCID: PMC1950458  PMID: 17717597
23.  A polymethoxyflavone from Laggera pterodonta induces apoptosis in imatinib-resistant K562R cells via activation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway 
Cancer Cell International  2014;14(1):137.
Treatment with imatinib mesylate (IM) (a tyrosine kinase inhibitor) is the first line of standard care for patients newly diagnosed with CML. Despite the success of IM and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) remains largely incurable, and a number of CML patients die due to Abl mutation-related drug resistance and blast crisis. 3, 5-Dihydroxy-6, 7, 3′4′-tetramethoxyflavone (DHTMF) is a polymethoxyflavone isolated from Laggera pterodonta which is a herbal medicine used to treat cancer in the Chinese folk. In the previous study, we found DHTMF demonstrated good antiproliferative activities against a number of cancer cell lines and induced the apoptosis of CNE cells in vitro in a time- and dose-dependent manner while exhibiting low cytotoxicity in the two normal cell lines Vero and EVC304. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induced by DHTMF alone and in combination with IM in the IM-resistant CML cell line K562R.
Cell proliferation was assayed with the cell counting kit-8 (CCK8) method. The apoptosis percentage was determined by flow cytometry (FCM). Mitochondrial transmembrane potential was detected using FCM and confocal laser-scanning microscopy. The level of proteins involved in apoptosis was detected by Western blotting.
DHTMF suppressed K562R cell viability in both time- and dose-dependent manners. DHTMF combined with IM enhanced the inhibitory effects and apoptosis in K562R cells as compared with DHTMF alone. DHTMF alone and in combination with IM significantly decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential and increased the levels of cleaved caspase-9, caspase-7, caspase-3, and PARP in K562R cells.
We demonstrated that DHTMF could inhibit IM-resistant K562R cell proliferation and induces apoptosis via the intrinsic mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. These results suggest that DHTMF may be a potential therapeutic drug with lower side effects against IM resistance in CML cells.
PMCID: PMC4272561  PMID: 25530716
DHTMF; Imatinib-resistant K562 cells; Apoptosis; Cell proliferation
24.  Combination of Bortezomib and Mitotic Inhibitors Down-Modulate Bcr-Abl and Efficiently Eliminates Tyrosine-Kinase Inhibitor Sensitive and Resistant Bcr-Abl-Positive Leukemic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77390.
Emergence of resistance to Tyrosine-Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs), such as imatinib, dasatinib and nilotinib, in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) demands new therapeutic strategies. We and others have previously established bortezomib, a selective proteasome inhibitor, as an important potential treatment in CML. Here we show that the combined regimens of bortezomib with mitotic inhibitors, such as the microtubule-stabilizing agent Paclitaxel and the PLK1 inhibitor BI2536, efficiently kill TKIs-resistant and -sensitive Bcr-Abl-positive leukemic cells. Combined treatment activates caspases 8, 9 and 3, which correlate with caspase-induced PARP cleavage. These effects are associated with a marked increase in activation of the stress-related MAP kinases p38MAPK and JNK. Interestingly, combined treatment induces a marked decrease in the total and phosphorylated Bcr-Abl protein levels, and inhibits signaling pathways downstream of Bcr-Abl: downregulation of STAT3 and STAT5 phosphorylation and/or total levels and a decrease in phosphorylation of the Bcr-Abl-associated proteins CrkL and Lyn. Moreover, we found that other mitotic inhibitors (Vincristine and Docetaxel), in combination with bortezomib, also suppress the Bcr-Abl-induced pro-survival signals and result in caspase 3 activation. These results open novel possibilities for the treatment of Bcr-Abl-positive leukemias, especially in the imatinib, dasatinib and nilotinib-resistant CML cases.
PMCID: PMC3796452  PMID: 24155950
25.  Activation of Apoptosis Signaling Eliminates CD34+ Progenitor Cells in Blast Crisis CML Independent of Response to Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors 
Leukemia  2011;26(4):788-794.
Despite being highly effective for newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), imatinib not only is inactive against quiescent CML stem cells, but also has limited activity against blast crisis (BC) CML. The relative activity of Bcr-Abl and the expression levels of antiapoptotic proteins in proliferating and quiescent CD34+ BC CML progenitor cells and the effects of targeting antiapoptotic proteins in these cells are unknown. Here we report higher levels of p-CrkL in quiescent than in proliferating CD34+ progenitor cells and comparable expression levels of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Mcl-1, and XIAP in the two populations in BC CML. Inhibition of Bcl-2/Bcl-xL by ABT-737 in cells from patients with tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-resistant BC CML promoted apoptosis in quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells with an efficacy similar to that in proliferating cells. Combination of ABT-737 with imatinib (which decreases Mcl-1 levels) or triptolide (which decreases Mcl-1 and XIAP) synergistically induced death of both proliferating and quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells obtained from TKI-resistant BC CML patients. These results suggest that antiapoptotic proteins are critical targets in BC CML and that activation of apoptosis signaling can eliminate both proliferating and quiescent CD34+ progenitor cells in BC CML, independent of response to TKIs.
PMCID: PMC3598156  PMID: 22033489
apoptosis; Bcl-2/Bcl-xL; Mcl-1; XIAP; quiescent; CML; progenitors

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