ABSTRACT: Bcl-2 proteins represent a rheostat that controls cellular viability. Obatoclax, a BH3-mimetic, has been designed to specifically target and counteract anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. We evaluated the biological effects of obatoclax on the anti-tumour activity of rituximab and chemotherapy agents. Obatoclax induced cell death of rituximab/chemotherapy-sensitive (RSCL), -resistant cell lines (RRCL) and primary tumour-cells derived from patients with B-cell lymphomas (N=39). Obatoclax also enhanced the activity of rituximab and had synergistic activity when combined with chemotherapy agents. The ability of Obatoclax to induce PARP cleavage varied between patient samples and was not observed in some RRCL. Inhibition of caspase activity did not affect obatoclax activity, suggesting the existence of caspase-independent death pathways. Autophagy was detected by LC3 conversion and/or electron microscopy in RRCL and in patient-derived tumour cells. Moreover, obatoclax activity was inhibited by Beclin-1 knockdown. In summary, obatoclax is an active Bcl-2 inhibitor that potentiates the activity of chemotherapy agents and, to a lesser degree, rituximab. Defining the molecular events triggered by obatoclax is necessary to further its clinical development and identify potential biomarkers that are predictive of response.
British Journal of Haematology 06/2011; 153(5):599-611. · 4.94 Impact Factor