Constitutively activating internal tandem duplications (ITD) of FLT3 (FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3) are the most common mutations in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and correlate with poor prognosis. Receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors targeting FLT3 have developed as attractive treatment options. Because relapses occur after initial responses, identification of FLT3-ITD–mediated signaling events are important to facilitate novel therapeutic interventions. Here, we have determined the growth-inhibitory and proapototic mechanisms of 2 small molecule inhibitors of FLT3, AG1295 or PKC412, in hematopoietic progenitor cells, human leukemic cell lines, and primary AML cells expressing FLT3-ITD. Inactivation of the PI3-kinase pathway, but not of Ras–mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signaling, was essential to elicit cytotoxic responses. Both compounds induced up-regulation of proapoptotic BH3-only proteins Bim and Puma, and subsequent cell death. However, only silencing of Bim, or its direct transcriptional activator FOXO3a, abrogated apoptosis efficiently. Similar findings were made in bone marrow cells from gene-targeted mice lacking Bim and/or Puma infected with FLT3-ITD and treated with inhibitor, where loss of Puma only provided transient protection from apoptosis, but loss of Bim preserved clonal survival upon FLT3-ITD inhibition.
Dasatinib is a dual Src/Abl inhibitor, recently approved for Bcr-Abl+ leukemias with resistance or intolerance to prior therapy. Because Src kinases contribute to multiple blood cell functions by triggering a variety of signaling pathways, we hypothesized that their molecular targeting might lead to growth inhibition in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
We studied growth factor-dependent and independent leukemic cell lines, including three cell lines expressing mutants of receptor tyrosine kinases (Flt3 or c-Kit) as well as primary AML blasts for responsiveness to dasatinib.
Dasatinib resulted in the inhibition of Src family kinases in all cell lines and blast cells at ~10−9 M. It also inhibited mutant Flt3 or Kit tyrosine phosphorylation at ~10−6 M. Mo7e cells expressing the activating mutation (codon 816) of c-Kit were most sensitive to growth inhibition with a GI50 5×10−9 M. Primary AML blast cells exhibited growth inhibition < 10−6 M. Cell lines which showed growth inhibition at ~10−6 M demonstrated a G1 cell cycle arrest and correlated with accumulation of p21 and p27 protein. Addition of rapamycin or cytotoxic agents enhanced the growth inhibition. Dasatinib also caused the apoptosis of Mo7e cells expressing oncogenic Kit.
While all of the precise targets for dasatinib are not known, this multi-kinase inhibitor causes either growth arrest or apoptosis in molecularly heterogeneous AML. Addition of cytotoxic or targeted agents can enhance its effects.
FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) is the most commonly mutated gene found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients and its activating mutations have been proven to be a negative prognostic marker for clinical outcome. Pacritinib (SB1518) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) with equipotent activity against FLT3 (IC50=22 n) and Janus kinase 2 (JAK2, IC50=23 n). Pacritinib inhibits FLT3 phosphorylation and downstream STAT, MAPK and PI3 K signaling in FLT3-internal-tandem duplication (ITD), FLT3-wt cells and primary AML blast cells. Oral administration of pacritinib in murine models of FLT3-ITD-driven AML led to significant inhibition of primary tumor growth and lung metastasis. Upregulation of JAK2 in FLT3-TKI-resistant AML cells was identified as a potential mechanism of resistance to selective FLT3 inhibition. This resistance could be overcome by the combined FLT3 and JAK2 activities of pacritinib in this cellular model. Our findings provide a rationale for the clinical evaluation of pacritinib in AML including patients resistant to FLT3-TKI therapy.
Pacritinib; SB1518; FLT3; JAK2; AML
Patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemias (AML) bearing FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3-internal tandem duplications (FLT3-ITD) have poor outcomes following cytarabine- and anthracyclin-based induction therapy. To a major part this is attributed to drug resistance of FLT3-ITD-positive leukemic cells. Against this background, we have devised an antibody array approach to identify proteins, which are differentially expressed by hematopoietic cells in relation to activated FLT3 signaling. Selective upregulation of antiapoptotic myeloid cell leukemia-1 (MCL-1) was found in FLT3-ITD-positive cell lines and primary mononuclear cells from AML patients as compared with FLT3-wild-type controls. Upregulation of MCL-1 was dependent on FLT3 signaling as confirmed by its reversion upon pharmacological inhibition of FLT3 activity by the kinase inhibitor PKC412 as well as siRNA-mediated suppression of FLT3. Heterologously expressed MCL-1 substituted for FLT3 signaling by conferring resistance of hematopoietic cells to antileukemia drugs such as cytarabine and daunorubicin, and to the proapoptotic BH3 mimetic ABT-737. Conversely, suppression of endogenous MCL-1 by siRNA or by flavopiridol treatment sensitized FLT3-ITD-expressing hematopoietic cells to cytotoxic and targeted therapeutics. In conclusion, MCL-1 is an essential effector of FLT3-ITD-mediated drug resistance. Therapeutic targeting of MCL-1 is a promising strategy to overcome drug resistance in FLT3-ITD-positive AML.
AML; MCL-1; FLT3-ITD; flavopiridol; resistance; kinase inhibitors
Patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and a FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation have a poor prognosis, and FLT3 inhibitors are now under clinical investigation. PIM1, a serine/threonine kinase, is up-regulated in FLT3-ITD AML and may be involved in FLT3-mediated leukemogenesis. We employed a PIM1 inhibitor, AR00459339 (Array Biopharma Inc.), to investigate the effect of PIM1 inhibition in FLT3-mutant AML. Like FLT3 inhibitors, AR00459339 was preferentially cytotoxic to FLT3-ITD cells, as demonstrated in the MV4-11, Molm-14, and TF/ITD cell lines, as well as 12 FLT3-ITD primary samples. Unlike FLT3 inhibitors, AR00459339 did not suppress phosphorylation of FLT3, but did promote the de-phosphorylation of downstream FLT3 targets, STAT5, AKT, and BAD. Combining AR00459339 with a FLT3 inhibitor resulted in additive to mildly synergistic cytotoxic effects. AR00459339 was cytotoxic to FLT3-ITD samples from patients with secondary resistance to FLT3 inhibitors, suggesting a novel benefit to combining these agents. We conclude that PIM1 appears to be closely associated with FLT3 signaling, and that inhibition of PIM1 may hold therapeutic promise, either as monotherapy, or by overcoming resistance to FLT3 inhibitors.
Gain-of-function mutations of tyrosine kinase FLT3 are frequently found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This has made FLT3 an important marker for disease diagnosis and a highly attractive target for therapeutic drug development. This study is intended to generate a sensitive substrate for assays of the FLT3 enzymatic activity.
We expressed in Escherichia coli cells a glutathione S-transferase (GST) fusion protein designated GST-FLT3S, which contains a peptide sequence derived from an autophosphorylation site of FLT3. The protein was used to analyze tyrosine kinase activity of baculovirus-expressed FLT3 and crude cell extracts of bone marrow cells from AML patients. It was also employed to perform FLT3 kinase assays for FLT3 inhibitor screening.
GST-FLT3S in solution or on beads was strongly phosphorylated by recombinant proteins carrying the catalytic domain of wild type FLT3 and FLT3D835 mutants, with the latter exhibiting much higher activity and efficiency. GST-FLT3S was also able to detect elevated tyrosine kinase activity in bone marrow cell extracts from AML patients. A small-scale inhibitor screening led to identification of several potent inhibitors of wild type and mutant forms of FLT3.
GST-FLT3S is a sensitive protein substrate for FLT3 assays. It may find applications in diagnosis of diseases related to abnormal FLT3 activity and in inhibitor screening for drug development.
Tyrosine kinase; FLT3; Activity assay; Inhibitor screening; Acute myeloid leukemia
The FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) is highly expressed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Internal tandem duplications (ITD) of the juxtamembrane domain lead to the constitutive activation of the FLT3 kinase inducing the activation of multiple genes, which may result in the expression of leukemia-associated antigens (LAAs). We analyzed the regulation of LAA in FLT3-wild-type (WT)- and FLT3-ITD+ myeloid cells to identify potential targets for antigen-specific immunotherapy for AML patients. Antigens, such as PR-3, RHAMM, Survivin, WT-1 and PRAME, were upregulated by constitutively active FLT3-ITD as well as FLT3-WT activated by FLT3 ligand (FL). Cytotoxic T-cell (CTL) clones against PR-3, RHAMM, Survivin and an AML-directed CTL clone recognized AML cell lines and primary AML blasts expressing FLT3-ITD, as well as FLT3-WT+ myeloid dendritic cells in the presence of FL. Downregulation of FLT3 led to the abolishment of CTL recognition. Comparing our findings concerning LAA upregulation by the FLT3 kinase with those already made for the Bcr-Abl kinase, we found analogies in the LAA expression pattern. Antigens upregulated by both FLT3 and Bcr-Abl may be promising targets for the development of immunotherapeutical approaches against myeloid leukemia of different origin.
acute myeloid leukemia; FLT3 kinase; leukemia-associated antigens; T-cell clones; immunotherapy
FMS-Like-Tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) mutations are found in about 30% of cases of acute myeloid leukemia and confer an increased relapse rate and reduced overall survival. Targeting of this tyrosine kinase by direction inhibition is the focus of both preclinical and clinical research in AML. Several molecules in clinical development inhibit FLT3 with varying degrees of specificity. Preclinical models suggest that these compounds enhance the cytotoxicity of conventional chemotherapeutics against FLT3 mutant leukemia cells. The pharmacodynamic interactions between FLT3 inhibitors and chemotherapy appear to be sequence dependent. When the FLT3 inhibitor is used prior to chemotherapy, antagonism is displayed, while if FLT3 inhibition is instituted after to exposure to chemotherapy, synergistic cytotoxicity is seen. The combination of FLT3 inhibitors with chemotherapy is also complicated by potential pharmacokinetic obstacles, such as plasma protein binding and p-glycoprotein interactions. Ongoing and future studies are aimed at incorporating FLT3 inhibitors into conventional induction and consolidation therapy specifically for patients with FLT3 mutant AML.
Pharmacotherapeutics; signal transduction; signalling therapies; myeloid leukemias and dysplasias
FLT3 is a receptor tyrosine kinase with important roles in hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell survival and proliferation. It is frequently overexpressed in acute leukemias and is frequently mutated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutations in AML portend poor prognosis in both adult and pediatric patients. A number of small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) with activity against FLT3 have been discovered. Many of these are still in preclinical development, but several have entered clinical phase 1 and 2 trials as monotherapy in patients with relapsed AML. These trials have resulted in frequent but short-lived responses of peripheral blasts and less frequent responses of bone marrow blasts. This led to clinical testing of FLT3 TKIs in combination with conventional chemotherapy. Several combination trials are ongoing or planned in both relapsed and newly diagnosed FLT3-mutant AML patients. Anti-FLT3 antibodies may also prove to be an excellent way of targeting FLT3 in AML and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) by inhibiting signaling and through antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is currently treated with aggressive chemotherapy that is not well tolerated in many elderly patients, hence the unmet medical need for effective therapies with less toxicity and better tolerability. Inhibitors of FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3), JAK2 and histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) have been tested in clinical studies, but showed only moderate single-agent activity. High efficacy of the HDACi pracinostat treating AML and synergy with the JAK2/FLT3 inhibitor pacritinib is demonstrated. Both compounds inhibit JAK-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling in AML cells with JAK2V617F mutations, but also diminish FLT3 signaling, particularly in FLT3-ITD (internal tandem duplication) cell lines. In vitro, this combination led to decreased cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. The synergy translated in vivo in two different AML models, the SET-2 megakaryoblastic AML mouse model carrying a JAK2V617F mutation, and the MOLM-13 model of FLT3-ITD-driven AML. Pracinostat and pacritinib in combination showed synergy on tumor growth, reduction of metastases and synergistically decreased JAK2 or FLT signaling, depending on the cellular context. In addition, several plasma cytokines/growth factors/chemokines triggered by the tumor growth were normalized, providing a rationale for combination therapy with an HDACi and a JAK2/FLT3 inhibitor for the treatment of AML patients, particularly those with FLT3 or JAK2 mutations.
HDAC inhibitor; JAK2 inhibitor; FLT3 inhibitor; in vivo combination; AML
The FMS-like receptor tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) plays an important role in controlling differentiation and proliferation of hematopoietic cells. Activating mutations in FLT3 occur in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (15-35%) resulting in abnormal cell proliferation. Furthermore, both adult and pediatric patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) harboring the FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation have a poor prognosis. Several inhibitors have been developed to target mutant FLT3 for the treatment of AML, yet the molecular pathways affected by drug inhibition of the mutated FLT3 receptor alone have not yet been characterized. Linifanib (ABT-869) is a multi-targeted tyrosine kinase receptor inhibitor that suppresses FLT3 signaling. In this paper, we demonstrate that treatment with Linifanib inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis in ITD mutant cells in vitro and in vivo. We show that treatment with Linifanib reduces phosphorylation of AKT and glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β). In addition, we show that inhibition of GSK3β decreases Linifanib-induced apoptosis. This study demonstrates the importance of GSK3 as a potential target for AML therapy, particularly in patients with FLT3 ITD mutations.
AML; FLT3 Inhibitor
Activating mutations of FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) are found in approximately 30% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). FLT3 is therefore an attractive drug target. However, the molecular mechanisms by which FLT3 mutations lead to cell transformation in AML remain unclear. To develop a better understanding of FLT3 signaling as well as its downstream effectors, we performed detailed phosphoproteomic analysis of FLT3 signaling in human leukemia cells. We identified over 1000 tyrosine phosphorylation sites from about 750 proteins in both AML (wild type and mutant FLT3) and B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (normal and amplification of FLT3) cell lines. Furthermore, using stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC), we were able to quantified over 400 phosphorylation sites (pTyr, pSer, and pThr) that were responsive to FLT3 inhibition in FLT3 driven human leukemia cell lines. We also extended this phosphoproteomic analysis on bone marrow from primary AML patient samples, and identify over 200 tyrosine and 800 serine/threonine phosphorylation sites in vivo. This study showed that oncogenic FLT3 regulates proteins involving diverse cellular processes and affects multiple signaling pathways in human leukemia that we previously appreciated, such as Fc epsilon RI-mediated signaling, BCR, and CD40 signaling pathways. It provides a valuable resource for investigation of oncogenic FLT3 signaling in human leukemia.
Arsenic trioxide (ATO) decreases proliferation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, but its precise mechanism of action is unknown.
We studied the effect of ATO on patient samples and the AML cell line, HEL, which, like leukemic blasts from 50% of AML cases, has constitutively activated signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins.
ATO induced mitotic arrest starting at 24 hours and significant cell death at 48 hours. These events were preceded by an ATO dose-dependent down-regulation of activated STAT proteins starting at 6 hours. We hypothesized that ATO inhibits protein tyrosine kinases (PTK) which, among others, phosphorylate and activate STATs. We therefore studied ATO effects on janus kinases and on three oncogenic PTKs that are known to activate STATs: FLT3, ZNF198/FGFR1 and BCR/ABL. ATO reduced STAT3 activation by janus kinases, altered phosphorylation and electrophoretic mobility of ZNF198/FGFR1, reduced kinase protein level and decreased STAT3 protein phosphorylation. ATO also reduced the phosphorylation of BCR/ABL and FLT3 with corresponding decreased STAT5 phosphorylation.
These results suggest a selective activity of ATO on PTKs and will assist in developing clinical trials in AML.
Overexpression or/and activating mutation of FLT3 kinase play a major driving role in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Hence, pharmacologic inhibitors of FLT3 are of therapeutic potential for AML treatment. In this study, BPR1J-340 was identified as a novel potent FLT3 inhibitor by biochemical kinase activity (IC50 approximately 25 nM) and cellular proliferation (GC50 approximately 5 nM) assays. BPR1J-340 inhibited the phosphorylation of FLT3 and STAT5 and triggered apoptosis in FLT3-ITD+ AML cells. The pharmacokinetic parameters of BPR1J-340 in rats were determined. BPR1J-340 also demonstrated pronounced tumor growth inhibition and regression in FLT3-ITD+ AML murine xenograft models. The combination treatment of the HDAC inhibitor vorinostat (SAHA) with BPR1J-340 synergistically induced apoptosis via Mcl-1 down-regulation in MOLM-13 AML cells, indicating that the combination of selective FLT3 kinase inhibitors and HDAC inhibitors could exhibit clinical benefit in AML therapy. Our results suggest that BPR1J-340 may be further developed in the preclinical and clinical studies as therapeutics in AML treatments.
Heat shock protein (HSP) 70 is aberrantly expressed in different malignancies and has emerged as a promising new target for anticancer therapy. Here, we analyzed the in vitro antileukemic effects of pifithrin-μ (PFT-μ), an inhibitor of inducible HSP70, in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cell lines, as well as in primary AML blasts. PFT-μ significantly inhibited cell viability at low micromolar concentrations in all cell lines tested, with IC50 values ranging from 2.5 to 12.7 μ, and was highly active in primary AML blasts with a median IC50 of 8.9 μ (range 5.7–37.2). Importantly, higher IC50 values were seen in normal hematopoietic cells. In AML and ALL, PFT-μ induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in a dose-dependent fashion. PFT-μ also led to an increase of the active form of caspase-3 and reduced the intracellular concentrations of AKT and ERK1/2 in NALM-6 cells. Moreover, PFT-μ enhanced cytotoxicity of cytarabine, 17-(allylamino)-17-desmethoxygeldanamycin, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, and sorafenib in NALM-6, TOM-1 and KG-1a cells. This is the first study demonstrating significant antileukemic effects of the HSP70 inhibitor PFT-μ, alone and in combination with different antineoplastic drugs in both AML and ALL. Our results suggest a potential therapeutic role for PFT-μ in acute leukemias.
acute lymphoblastic leukemia; acute myeloid leukemia; HSP70 inhibitor; pifithrin-μ
Ca++ signaling is an important component of signal transduction pathways regulating B and T lymphocyte proliferation, but the functional role of Ca++ signaling in regulating myeloid leukemia cell proliferation has been largely unexplored. We observe that the activated (autophosphorylated) Ca++/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKIIγ) is invariably present in myeloid leukemia cell lines as well as in the majority of primary acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patient samples. In contrast myeloid leukemia cells induced to terminally differentiate or undergo growth arrest display a marked reduction in this CaMKIIγ autophosphorylation. In cells harboring the bcr-abl oncogene, the activation (autophosphorylation) of CaMKIIγ is regulated by this oncogene. Moreover, inhibition of CaMKIIγ activity with pharmacological agents, dominant negative constructs or shRNAs inhibits the proliferation of myeloid leukemia cells, and this is associated with the inactivation/downregulation of multiple critical signal transduction networks involving the MAP kinase, JAK/Stat and GSK3β/β-catenin pathways. In myeloid leukemia cells CaMKIIγ directly phosphorylates Stat3 and enhances its transcriptional activity. Thus CaMKIIγ is a critical regulator of multiple signaling networks regulating the proliferation of myeloid leukemia cells. Inhibiting CaMKIIγ may represent a novel approach in the targeted therapy of myeloid leukemia.
myeloid leukemia; Ca++/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II; bcr-abl oncogene; Stat 3
Ponatinib (AP24534) is a novel multitargeted kinase inhibitor that potently inhibits native and mutant BCR-ABL at clinically achievable drug levels. Ponatinib also has in vitro inhibitory activity against a discrete set of kinases implicated in the pathogenesis of other hematologic malignancies, including FLT3, KIT, fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1), and platelet derived growth factor receptor α (PDGFRα). Here, using leukemic cell lines containing activated forms of each of these receptors, we show that ponatinib potently inhibits receptor phosphorylation and cellular proliferation with IC50 values comparable to those required for inhibition of BCR-ABL (0.3 to 20 nmol/L). The activity of ponatinib against the FLT3-ITD mutant, found in up to 30% of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients, was particularly notable. In MV4-11 (FLT3-ITD+/+) but not RS4;11 (FLT3-ITD−/−) AML cells, ponatinib inhibited FLT3 signaling and induced apoptosis at concentrations of less than 10 nmol/L. In an MV4-11 mouse xenograft model, once daily oral dosing of ponatinib led to a dose-dependent inhibition of signaling and tumor regression. Ponatinib inhibited viability of primary leukemic blasts from a FLT3-ITD positive AML patient (IC50 4 nmol/L) but not those isolated from 3 patients with AML expressing native FLT3. Overall, these results support the investigation of ponatinib in patients with FLT3-ITD–driven AML and other hematologic malignancies driven by KIT, FGFR1, or PDGFRα.
Activating mutations of Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) constitute a major driver in the pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Hence, pharmacological inhibitors of FLT3 are of therapeutic interest for AML.
The effects of inhibition of FLT3 activity by a novel potent FLT3 inhibitor, BPR1J-097, were investigated using in vitro and in vivo assays.
The 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) of BPR1J-097 required to inhibit FLT3 kinase activity ranged from 1 to 10 n, and the 50% growth inhibition concentrations (GC50s) were 21±7 and 46±14 n for MOLM-13 and MV4-11 cells, respectively. BPR1J-097 inhibited FLT3/signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 phosphorylation and triggered apoptosis in FLT3-driven AML cells. BPR1J-097 also showed favourable pharmacokinetic property and pronounced dose-dependent tumour growth inhibition and regression in FLT3-driven AML murine xenograft models.
These results indicate that BPR1J-097 is a novel small molecule FLT-3 inhibitor with promising in vivo anti-tumour activities and suggest that BPR1J-097 may be further developed in preclinical and clinical studies as therapeutics in AML treatments.
acute myeloid leukaemia; FLT3; FLT3-ITD; MOLM-13; MV4-11; kinase inhibitor
Activating mutations [internal tandem duplication (ITD)] or overexpression of the FMS-like tyrosine kinase receptor-3 (FLT3) gene are associated with poor outcome in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients, underscoring the need for novel therapeutic approaches. The natural product silvestrol has potent antitumor activity in several malignancies, but its therapeutic impact on distinct molecular high-risk AML subsets remains to be fully investigated. We examined here the preclinical activity of silvestrol in FLT3-ITD and FLT3 wild-type (wt) AML.
Silvestrol in vitro anti-leukemic activity was examined by colorimetric cell viability assay, colony-forming and flow cytometry assays assessing growth inhibition and apoptosis, respectively. Pharmacological activity of silvestrol on FLT3 mRNA translation, mRNA and protein expression was determined by RNA-immunoprecipitation, qRT-PCR and immunoblot analyses, respectively. Silvestrol in vivo efficacy was investigated using MV4-11 leukemia-engrafted mice.
Silvestrol shows antileukemia activity at nanomolar concentrations both in FLT3-wt overexpressing (THP-1) and FLT3-ITD (MV4-11) expressing AML cell lines (IC50 = 3.8 and 2.7 nM, respectively) and patients’ primary blasts [IC50 = ~12 nM (FLT3-wt) and ~5 nM (FLT3-ITD)]. Silvestrol increased apoptosis (~4fold, P = 0.0001), and inhibited colony-formation (100%, P < 0.0001) in primary blasts. Silvestrol efficiently inhibited FLT3 translation reducing FLT3 protein expression by 80–90% and decreased miR-155 levels (~60%), a frequently co-regulated onco-miR in FLT3-ITD-positive AML. The median survival of silvestrol-treated vs vehicle-treated mice was 63 vs 29 days post-engraftment, respectively (P < 0.0001).
Silvestrol exhibits significant in vivo and in vitro antileukemic activities in AML through a novel mechanism resulting in inhibition of FLT3 and miR-155 expression. These encouraging results warrant a rapid translation of silvestrol for clinical testing in AML.
Activation of the transcription factor STAT5 is essential for the pathogenesis of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) containing the FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutation. FLT3 ITD is a constitutively active tyrosine kinase that drives the activation of STAT5, leading to the growth and survival of AML cells. Although there has been some success in identifying tyrosine kinase inhibitors that block the function of FLT3 ITD, there remains a continued need for effective treatment of this disease. We have identified the psychotropic drug pimozide as an effective inhibitor of STAT5 function. Pimozide inhibits the tyrosine phosphorylation of STAT5, leading to the death of AML cells through the induction of apoptosis. Pimozide shows a combinatorial effect with the tyrosine kinase inhibitors midostaurin (PKC412) and sunitinib in the inhibition of STAT5 tyrosine phosphorylation and the induction of apoptosis. Significantly, pimozide reduces the tumor burden in a mouse model of FLT3-driven AML. Therefore, identifying STAT5 inhibitors may provide a new avenue for the treatment of AML, and these may be effective alone or in combination with tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
STAT5; pimozide; FLT3; AML
Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-treated acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients commonly show rapid and significant peripheral blood blast cell reduction, however a marginal decrease in bone marrow blasts. This suggests a protective environment and highlights the demand for a better understanding of stromal:leukemia cell communication. As a strategy to improve clinical efficacy, we searched for novel agents capable of potentiating the stroma-diminished effects of TKI treatment of mutant FLT3-expressing cells.
We designed a combinatorial high throughput drug screen using well-characterized kinase inhibitor-focused libraries to identify novel kinase inhibitors capable of overriding stromal-mediated resistance to TKIs, such as PKC412 and AC220. Standard liquid culture proliferation assays, cell cycle and apoptosis analysis, and immunoblotting were carried out with cell lines or primary AML to validate putative candidates from the screen and characterize the mechanism(s) underlying observed synergy.
Results and Conclusions
Our study led to the observation of synergy between selective Akt inhibitors and FLT3 inhibitors against mutant FLT3-positive AML in either the absence or presence of stroma. Our findings are consistent with evidence that Akt activation is characteristic of mutant FLT3-transformed cells, as well as observed residual Akt activity following FLT3 inhibitor treatment. In conclusion, our study highlights the potential importance of Akt as a signaling factor in leukemia survival, and supports the use of the co-culture chemical screen to identify agents able to potentiate TKI anti-leukemia activity in a cytoprotective microenvironment.
Molecular characterization of the FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 receptor (FLT3) in cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has recently been incorporated into clinical guidelines based on correlations between FLT3 internal tandem duplications (FLT3-ITD) and decreased disease-free and overall survival. These mutations result in constitutive activation of FLT3, and FLT3 inhibitors are currently undergoing trials in AML patients selected on FLT3 molecular status. However, the transient and partial responses observed suggest that FLT3 mutational status alone does not provide complete information on FLT3 biological activity at the individual patient level. Examination of variation in cellular responsiveness to signaling modulation may be more informative.
Using single cell network profiling (SCNP), cells were treated with extracellular modulators and their functional responses were quantified by multiparametric flow cytometry. Intracellular signaling responses were compared between healthy bone marrow myeloblasts (BMMb) and AML leukemic blasts characterized as FLT3 wild type (FLT3-WT) or FLT3-ITD. Compared to healthy BMMb, FLT3-WT leukemic blasts demonstrated a wide range of signaling responses to FLT3 ligand (FLT3L), including elevated and sustained PI3K and Ras/Raf/Erk signaling. Distinct signaling and apoptosis profiles were observed in FLT3-WT and FLT3-ITD AML samples, with more uniform signaling observed in FLT3-ITD AML samples. Specifically, increased basal p-Stat5 levels, decreased FLT3L induced activation of the PI3K and Ras/Raf/Erk pathways, decreased IL-27 induced activation of the Jak/Stat pathway, and heightened apoptotic responses to agents inducing DNA damage were observed in FLT3-ITD AML samples. Preliminary analysis correlating these findings with clinical outcomes suggests that classification of patient samples based on signaling profiles may more accurately reflect FLT3 signaling deregulation and provide additional information for disease characterization and management.
These studies show the feasibility of SCNP to assess modulated intracellular signaling pathways and characterize the biology of individual AML samples in the context of genetic alterations.
FLT3-ITD and FLT3-TKD mutations are frequently found in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This makes tyrosine kinase FLT3 a highly attractive target for therapeutic drug development. However, effective drugs have not yet emerged. This study is intended to identify and to characterize new FLT3 inhibitors.
By using the protein substrate GST-FLT3S to analyze kinase activity of recombinant proteins carrying the catalytic domain of wild type and mutant forms of FLT3, we screened a chemical library containing 80 known protein kinase inhibitors. We identified SU11652 as a potent FLT3 inhibitor and further employed FLT3-ITD-positive MV- 4–11 cells to study its effects on cell growth, apoptosis, cell cycles, and cell signaling.
SU11652 strongly inhibited the activity of wild type, D835Y, and D835H mutant forms of FLT3 with IC50 values of 1.5, 16, and 32 nM, respectively. It effectively blocked the growth of FLT3-ITD -positive MV-4-11 cells at nanomolar concentrations but exhibited much less effects on several other cells which do not carry mutations of FLT3. SU11652 inhibited growth of MV-4-11 cells by inducing apoptosis, causing cell cycle arrest, and blocking activation of the ERK, Akt, and STAT signaling pathways.
SU11652 is a potent FLT3 inhibitor which selectively targets FLT3-ITD-positive cells. It should serve as a good candidate for development of therapeutic drugs to treat AML.
Tyrosine kinase; FLT3; Inhibitor screening; SU11652; Acute myeloid leukemia
Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDIs) have shown promise as candidate radiosensitizer for many types of cancers. However, the mechanisms of action are not well understood, and whether they could have clinical impact on radiotherapy for leukemia is unclear. In this study, we demonstrate that suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) can increase radiosensitivity of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells through posttranslational modification of Rad51 protein responses and selective inhibition of the homology-directed repair (HDR) pathway. Our data also showed that AML cells with mutant, constitutively active FMS-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3) were more radiation sensitive, caused by compromised non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair. Furthermore, SAHA-induced radiosensitization were enhanced in AML cells with expression of these FLT3 mutants. The results of this study suggest that SAHA, a recently approved HDI in clinical trials, may act as a candidate component for novel conditioning regimens to improve efficacy for AML patients undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Mutations of the FLT3 receptor tyrosine kinase consisting of internal tandem duplications (ITD) have been detected in blasts from 20–30% of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and are associated with a poor prognosis. FLT3/ITD results in constitutive auto-phosphorylation of the receptor and factor-independent survival in leukemia cell lines. The C-28 methyl ester of the oleane triterpenoid (CDDO-Me) is a multifunctional molecule that induces apoptosis of human myeloid leukemia cells. Here we report that CDDO-Me blocks targeting of NFκB to the nucleus by inhibiting IKKβ-mediated phosphorylation of IκBα. Moreover, CDDO-Me blocked constitutive activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). We report the potent and selective anti-proliferative effects of CDDO-Me on FLT3/ITD-positive myeloid leukemia cell lines and primary AML cells. The present studies demonstrate that CDDO-Me treatment results in caspase-3-mediated induction of apoptosis of FLT3/ITD expressing cells and its anti-proliferative effects are synergistic with PKC412, a FLT3-tyrosine kinase inhibitor currently in clinical trials. Taken together, our studies indicate that CDDO-Me greatly enhanced the efficacy of the FLT3 inhibitor PKC412, suggesting that combining two separate pathway inhibitors may be a viable therapeutic strategy for AML associated with a FLT3/ITD mutation.
FLT3-ITD; AML; STAT3; apoptosis