Key Points

  • Genome-wide CRISPR activation and knockout screens identify genes involved in modulating sensitivity to crizotinib in NPM1-ALK+ ALCL

  • In an autocrine loop, the IL10 receptor activates STAT3, bypassing NPM1-ALK, to bind to the promoters of IL10, IL10RA and IL10RB

Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) is a T-cell malignancy predominantly driven by a hyperactive Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) fusion protein. ALK inhibitors such as crizotinib provide alternatives to standard chemotherapy with reduced toxicity and side effects. Children with lymphomas driven by NPM1-ALK fusion proteins achieved an objective response rate to ALK inhibition therapy of 54-90% in clinical trials. However, a subset of patients progress within the first 3 months of treatment. The mechanism for the development of ALK inhibitor resistance is unknown. Through genome-wide CRISPR activation and knockout screens in ALCL cell lines combined with RNA-seq data derived from ALK inhibitor relapsed patient tumors, we show that resistance to ALK inhibition by crizotinib in ALCL can be driven by aberrant upregulation of IL10RA. Elevated IL10RA expression rewires the STAT3 signaling pathway bypassing otherwise critical phosphorylation by NPM1-ALK. IL10RA expression does not correlate with response to standard chemotherapy in pediatric patients suggesting that combination of crizotinib with chemotherapy could prevent ALK-inhibitor resistance-specific relapse. Trials registered as NCT01979536/NCT02034981/UMIN000028075.

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