The receptor tyrosine kinase FLT3 is overexpressed in blasts of ~90% of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and the majority of B-lymphoid leukemia patients. Internal tandem duplications (ITDs) in the juxtamembrane region and point mutations in the kinase domain of FLT3 are found in ~37% of AML patients and are associated with a poor prognosis. We have recently developed a fully human monoclonal antibody (IMC-EB10) which binds with high affinity to FLT3 receptor on human leukemia cells. In the present study, a novel auristatin conjugate of the anti-FLT3 antibody (EB10-MMAF) was prepared using a dipeptide linker that allows for drug release inside the lysosomes of antigen-positive cells. The MMAF conjugates were stable in buffers and plasma. EB10-MMAF (drug/antibody raito = 8) was highly potent, and selectively inhibited the growth of FLT3-expressing leukemia cells with an IC50 of 0.19 nM and 0.08 nM for MV4;11 and BaF3-ITD cells (both positive for FLT3-ITD), 1.11 nM, 6.18 nM and 1.82 nM for REH , EOL-1, EM3 cells (all three positive for wild-type FLT3), and 135 nM for JM1 (negative for FLT3). An MMAF conjugate with a control antibody was not active in these cell lines (IC50s > 5.9 uM). Flow cytometric analysis with annexin V indicated that EB10-MMAF treatment induced apoptosis of leukemia cells in vitro. In vivo treatment with EB10-MMAF strongly inhibited leukemia growth and prolonged survival of mice in both EOL-1 and BaF3-ITD leukemia models. In summary, immunoconjugates composed of a fully human anti-FLT3 antibody and a potent auristatin drug may provide a valuable therapeutic approach for AML and other FLT3-positive leukemias.

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