Patient relapse due to the emergence of imatinib-resistance in advanced chronic myelogenous and Ph+ acute lymphocytic leukemias has prompted the search for improved Bcr-Abl kinase inhibitors. Up to 40% imatinib-resistant patients express mutant forms of the Bcr-Abl kinase that reduce binding of imatinib without significantly decreasing kinase activity. However, some mutants are only partially resistant, since higher concentrations of imatinib may still block kinase activity and have a beneficial clinical effect. More potent Bcr-Abl inhibitors or inhibitors with different contact points with the kinase domain are predicted to be useful for the treatment of imatinib-resistant disease. Rational drug design based upon the crystal structure of an Abl-imatinib complex, together with medicinal chemistry paradigms, resulted in the discovery of AMN107. AMN107 is a low molecular weight compound that selectively inhibits the c-Abl/Bcr-Abl, imatinib-resistant mutants of Bcr-Abl, PDGFR, and c-Kit tyrosine kinases, with IC50 values for the inibition of autophosphorylation (cell capture ELISA) of 23 nM (32D cells transfected with p210 Bcr-Abl), 83 nM (A31 cells) and 192 nM (GIST cells), respectively. Following oral administration to mice (20 mg/kg in NMP-PEG300 10:90 v/v), AMN107 was well absorbed, with a mean plasma level after 2 h in the range of 6.0-12.1 M, which corresponds to >100-fold that required to inhibit Bcr-Abl autophosphorylation in 32D.p210 cells. Following injection of 32D.p210-luciferase cells into Balb/c mice, serial imaging of the leukemic clone in live mice indicated that AMN107 could substantially reduce the accumulation of leukemic cells in the marrow, nodes, liver, and spleen, compared to a vehicle control. Further, administration of AMN107 (75 mg/kg/day p.o.) to BALB/c mice over an 18 day period, commencing 3 days after the injection of 32 D.p210 cells, resulted in the protection of 15/20 animals over 100 days observation, whereas 19/20 vehicle treated animals developed a lethal leukemic disease(all deaths occurred within 36 days of cell injection). The spleen sizes of the surviving animals in the treated group were in the normal range (0.142±0.043 g; n = 17), whereas those of the vehicle treated animals were 0.50±0.045 (n = 20). These results were confirmed in a bone marrow transplant assay, where AMN107 was found to prolong survival of mice transplanted with marrow cells infected with a p210Bcr/Abl retrovirus. AMN107 also prolonged survival of mice transplanted with a Bcr/Abl mutant (E255V) associated with imatinib resistance in patients, while imatinib treatment was unsuccessful. These in vivo studies, along with in vitro studies reported separately, indicate that AMN107 is a highly active inhibitor of Bcr/Abl that may have clinical utility in patients with Bcr/Abl+ leukemias.

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