Using combination therapy to override stromal-mediated chemoresistance in mutant FLT3-positive AML: Synergism between FLT3 inhibitors, dasatinib/multi-targeted inhibitors and JAK inhibitors
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) progenitors are frequently characterized by activating mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase Fms-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3). Protein tyrosine kinases are integral components of signaling cascades that have a role in both FLT3-mediated transformation as well as viability pathways that are advantageous to leukemic cell survival. The bone marrow microenvironment can diminish AML sensitivity to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. We hypothesized that inhibition of protein kinases in addition to FLT3 may be effective in overriding drug resistance in AML. We used a cell-based model mimicking stromal protection as part of an unbiased high-throughput chemical screen to identify kinase inhibitors with the potential to override microenvironment-mediated drug resistance in mutant FLT3-positive AML. Several related multi-targeted kinase inhibitors, including dasatinib, with the capability of reversing microenvironment-induced resistance to FLT3 inhibition were identified and validated. We validated synergy in vitro and demonstrated effective combination potential in vivo. In particular Janus kinase inhibitors were effective in overriding stromal protection and potentiating FLT3 inhibition in primary AML and cell lines. These results hint at a novel concept of using combination therapy to override drug resistance in mutant FLT3-positive AML in the bone marrow niche and suppress or eradicate residual disease.
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Available from: Luciano Castiello
- "BMSCs support both normal and abnormal hematopoiesis. In leukemia microenvironment they play an important and complex role: BMSCs promote AML cell growth and drug resistance
 via IL-6 secretion, JAK/STAT pathway activation
 and by activating pro-survival pathways via integrin-linked kinases
. In chronic myeloid leukemia, BMSCs stabilize leukemia cells by promoting the clustering of CXCR4 in the lipid rafts and facilitating the migration of leukemia cells in the bone marrow
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ABSTRACT: Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) are multipotent cells that support angiogenesis, wound healing, and immunomodulation. In the hematopoietic niche, they nurture hematopoietic cells, leukemia, tumors and metastasis. BMSCs secrete of a wide range of cytokines, growth factors and matrix proteins which contribute to the pro-tumorigenic marrow microenvironment. The inflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha change the BMSC secretome and we hypothesized that factors produced by tumors or leukemia would also affect the BMSC secretome and investigated the interaction of leukemia cells with BMSCs.
BMSCs from healthy subjects were co-cultured with three myeloid leukemia cell lines (TF-1, TF-1alpha and K562) using a trans-well system. Following co-culture, the BMSCs and leukemia cells were analyzed by global gene expression analysis and culture supernatants were analyzed for protein expression. As a control, CD34+ cells were also cocultured with BMSCs.
Co-culture induced leukemia cell gene expression changes in stem cell pluripotency, TGF-beta signaling and carcinoma signaling pathways. BMSCs co-cultured with leukemia cells up-regulated a number of proinflammatory genes including IL-17 signaling-related genes and IL-8 and CCL2 levels were increased in co-culture supernatants. In contrast, purine metabolism, mTOR signaling and EIF2 signaling pathways genes were up-regulated in BMSCs co-cultured with CD34+ cells.
BMSCs react to the presence of leukemia cells undergoing changes in the cytokine and chemokine secretion profiles. Thus, BMSCs and leukemia cells both contribute to the creation of a competitive niche more favorable for leukemia stem cells.
Available from: James D Griffin
- "Previous studies of ours suggest that TKI-dependent combination therapy likely represents a potentially useful approach to counteracting both intrinsic and stroma-associated drug resistance in leukemia patients , , , . With the recent discovery of numerous FLT3 inhibitor-responsive serine/threonine and tyrosine phosphorylation sites uncovered in primary AML patient bone marrow samples , identification of protein kinase inhibitors that are able to enhance the potency of FLT3 inhibitors makes intuitive sense. "
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ABSTRACT: 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.
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.
Available from: nature.com
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ABSTRACT: Internal tandem duplication (ITD) of the fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) gene is a gain-of-function mutation common in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). It is associated with inferior prognosis and response to chemotherapy. Single base mutations at the FLT3 tyrosine kinase domain (TKD) also leads to a gain of function, although its prognostic significance is less well defined because of its rarity. The clinical benefits of FLT3 inhibition are generally limited to AML with FLT3-ITD. However, responses are transient and leukaemia progression invariably occurs. There is compelling evidence that leukaemia clones carrying both ITD and TKD mutations appear when resistance to FLT3 inhibitors occurs. Interestingly, the emergence of double ITD and TKD mutants can be recapitulated in vitro when FLT3-ITD+ leukaemia cell lines are treated with mutagens and FLT3 inhibitors. Furthermore, murine xenotransplantation models also suggest that, in some cases, the FTL3-ITD and TKD double mutants actually exist in minute amounts before treatment with FLT3 inhibitors, expand under the selection pressure of FLT3 inhibition and become the predominant resistant clone(s) during the drug-refractory phase. On the basis of this model of clonal evolution, a multipronged strategy using more potent FLT3 inhibitors, and a combinatorial approach targeting both FLT3-dependent and FLT3-independent pathways, will be needed to improve outcome.Leukemia advance online publication, 3 August 2012; doi:10.1038/leu.2012.195.
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