Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a hematological malignancy with unfavorable prognosis. Novel therapeutic approaches for treating the disease are aimed at the mechanisms regulating growth signals, cellular proliferation, and survival pathways of the malignant clones. Bortezomib (Brt), a proteasome inhibitor with pleiotropic activities was shown to be active in MCL and is currently implemented in therapeutic combinations for this disease. Telomerase activity is essential for survival of malignant cells and as such is considered a valid therapeutic target. This study evaluated the effects of bortezomib on telomerase activity and its regulation in MCL cells in vitro and ex vivo.
Our study shows that bortezomib exerts a cytotoxic effect in a dose dependent manner in two MCL cell lines, with differential sensitivity. While the IC50 for HBL-2 cells ranged between 2.5 ng/ml to 1.5 ng/ml during 24-72 h respectively, the IC50 for the NCEB cells was twice. Bortezomib differentially inhibited telomerase activity (TA): in HBL-2 cells there was a decline of 20%-55% during 24-72 h respectively. However in NCEB cells the decline was much smaller, and did not exceed 25%. Inhibition of telomerase activity is shown to be operated by two separate mechanisms: reduction of the hTERT mRNA expression (controlled by the binding of transcription factors) and reduction in phosphorylation of the catalytic subunit of hTERT by its kinases, AKT and PKCα.
A decrease in telomerase activity was demonstrated also in mononuclear cells, isolated from three MCL patients following incubation of the cells in the presence of bortezomib for 24-72 h. In one patient the decrease in TA ranged between 17%-37% respectively, in the second patient between 63%-76% and in the third patient between 70-100% for 24-72 h respectively.
The current study indicates that a combination of bortezomib and rapamycin, (an m-Tor pathway inhibitor used in MCL treatment) induced synergistic inhibition of telomerase activity. In HBL-2 cells, the combined treatment of bortezomib and rapamycin decreased TA by 80% compared to the expected value (40%) and for NCEB cells a similar trend was observed. In contrast, there was neither additive nor synergistic effect of this combination on cell proliferation.
In the light of the crucial role of telomerase in cancer cells, it was important to characterize the possible relations between telomerase and bortezomib and to distinguish the biochemical mechanisms of its regulation and its interactions with other signal transduction inhibitors such as rapamycin. The results of this work encourage the in vivo examination of the therapeutic potential of the combination of bortezomib and rapamycin in Mantle Cell Lymphoma patients.