Abstract

Background: Leukemias with MLL translocations, especially t(4;11), often are resistant to common chemotherapeutic agents, which may be due to abnormal apoptosis regulation. Pro- and anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family member interactions govern initiation of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. GX015-070, which currently is in Phase I/IIA clinical trials, mimics the BH3 domain on pro-apoptotic BCL-2 family proteins and can bind the BH3 binding pocket of anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family members and modulate apoptosis. We performed comprehensive protein expression profiling of BCL-2 family member proteins and evaluated in vitro activity and mechanism of action of GX015-070 in cell lines with t(4;11).

Methods: Baseline expression of BCL-2 family proteins was determined by Western blot analysis. Cytotoxicity was assessed by MTT after a 3 day exposure of RS4:11, SEM-K2 and MV4-11 cells in log phase growth to single agent GX015-070 at concentrations from 5 nM to 7.5 μM. Combined effects of fixed-concentration GX015-070 with cytotoxic agents over a range of concentrations were assayed by MTT, and the results were analyzed by pharmacostatistical response surface modeling. Disruption of specific pro- and anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family member interactions was investigated by co-immunoprecipitation/Western blot analysis. Flow cytometry and/or Western blot analysis of Caspase-3 activation, and a FACS TUNEL assay, were used to assess apoptosis in GX015-070 treated and untreated cells.

Results: The three cell lines had similar baseline levels of expression of BCL-2 family proteins. BCL-2 and BAX were most abundant followed by PUMA, BAK, BCL-XL, BIM-EL, MCL-1, BIK and NOXA. Results of assays of GX015-070 activity and mechanism of action are in shown in the table.

Conclusions: These data indicate that GX015-070 has potent cytotoxic activity in cell lines with t(4;11) as a single agent and that the cytotoxicity results from apoptosis. Response surface modeling in RS4:11 cells suggested ability to achieve effective doses with GX015-070 combined with cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C), dexamethasone (Dex) or doxorubicin (ADR) that are lower than projected from the single agents, but synergy was not suggested when GX015-070 was combined with etoposide, methotrexate or 6-thioguanine. The co-IP experiments give proof of principle that GX015-070 disrupts pro- and anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family protein interactions in cell lines with t(4;11). Additional pre-clinical experiments directed at overcoming drug resistance from abnormal cell death regulation in leukemias with t(4;11) using GX015-070 are in progress. These studies provide a framework to understand the cell death/survival machinery in primary leukemias with t(4;11) translocations more completely and manipulate that machinery to achieve better treatments.

GX015-070 Activity and Mechanism

Cell Line Single Agent Activity Synergy Inhibition Caspase-3 Activation TUNEL 
RS4:11 IC50=43.5 nM Ara-C, Dex, ADR Mcl1:Bak; Bcl2:Bak 
SEM-K2 IC50=156 nM In progress Mcl1:Bak; Bcl2:Bak In Progress 
MV4-11 IC50=123 nM In progress Mcl1:Bak In progress 
Cell Line Single Agent Activity Synergy Inhibition Caspase-3 Activation TUNEL 
RS4:11 IC50=43.5 nM Ara-C, Dex, ADR Mcl1:Bak; Bcl2:Bak 
SEM-K2 IC50=156 nM In progress Mcl1:Bak; Bcl2:Bak In Progress 
MV4-11 IC50=123 nM In progress Mcl1:Bak In progress 

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