Background:Recent advances in targeted therapy have expanded the available therapeutic optionsfor patients with AML. However, many patients still have suboptimal outcomes, particularly in the relapsed/refractory setting, underscoring the need for novel therapeutic strategies. Proteasome inhibitors (PIs), such as bortezomib, exhibit antitumor activity in AML through inhibition of the nuclear factor κB pathway and induction of apoptosis. CFZ, a second-generation PI, has preferential preclinical activity in AML compared to bortezomib making it an agent of interest in AML therapy. Here we assessed the activity of CFZ as a single agent and in novel combinations with Ara-C and/or other agents targeting potential vulnerabilities in AML cell lines.

Methods:20 AML cell lines were treated with a single dose of CFZ for 7 days, proliferation inhibition was measured using an IC50 cutoff for CFZ of 10 nM. 2 sensitive (ML2 and MV411) and 2 resistant (AML193 and NOMO1) cell lines were selected for further analysis. Apoptosis, cell cycle, and cell senescence analysis were performed after 72 hours of CFZ exposure at 10 nM.

Combination assays using CFZ 10 nM and Ara-C 200 nM were performed to evaluate for potential interaction in the form of antagonism or potentiation.

Proteomic analysis was performed at baseline using reverse phase protein assay (RPPA). Cell lines were aligned according to CFZ IC50. Several proteins involved in various physiological pathways exhibited a potential correlation with CFZ sensitivity. Combination treatments with CFZ and agents targeting these pathways were carried out in selected cell lines.

Results:Single-agent CFZ induced apoptosis with apoptotic rates >85% in sensitive cell lines and only 10% in resistant cell lines. Similarly, CFZ resulted in G0/G1 cell cycle arrest in sensitive, but not resistant AML cell lines. Lack of difference in cellular senescence confirmed apoptosis as the major mechanism of CFZ-induced growth inhibition in AML cell lines. No antagonism was noted when CFZ was combined with Ara-C.

RPPA revealed that AML cell lines with higher expression of autophagy-related proteins (Atgs) were more resistant to CFZ treatment. Combining autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) or ROC-325 with CFZ produced a synergistic effect to induce apoptosis in several CFZresistant cell lines.

RPPA also revealed that lower basal levels of fatty acid synthase (FASN), a key enzyme involved in lipogenesis, correlated with CFZ sensitivity and CFZ resistant lines tendedto have higher basal FASN levels. The combination of CFZ with a FASN inhibitor resulted in a significant synergistic apoptosis-inducing effect that was observed in the AML lines tested.

Conclusion:CFZ demonstrated single agent activity in the nanomolar range in human AML cell lines. The addition of standard-of -care chemotherapy to CFZ did not show antagonism. Combining CFZ with agents targeting autophagy or lipid-metabolism showed synergistic effect in apoptosis. These results suggest a role for CFZ in combination therapeutic strategies for AML patients.


Mcdermott:TORL Biotherapeutics:Current equity holder in private company;1200 Pharma:Current equity holder in private company.Slamon:TORL Biotherapeutics:Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees;1200 Pharma:Current equity holder in private company, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees;Novartis:Consultancy, Research Funding;Eli Lilly:Consultancy;Bayer:Consultancy, Research Funding;Pfizer:Consultancy, Other: stock, Research Funding;Syndax:Research Funding;Aileron:Research Funding;Genetech:Research Funding;Biomarin:Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees;Seattle Genetics:Other: Stock;Amgen:Other: Stock.Larson:BMS, Bioline, Celgene, Juno, Janssen:Research Funding;TORL Biotherapeutics:Current equity holder in private company.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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