BACKGROUND: The centrosome is the cellular organelle that nucleates the mitotic spindle. Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1), a centrosome-associated serine/threonine kinase, serves as a key regulator of multiple steps in mitosis. Plk1 is overexpressed in a broad spectrum of tumor types, and its expression often correlates with poor patient prognosis. We have previously observed centrosome amplification in myeloma, and have validated other components of the myeloma centrosome and mitotic apparatus as therapeutic targets. The present study explored the expression of Plk1 in myeloma and the effect of BI2536, a potent and selective inhibitor of Plk1, on myeloma cells in the pre-clinical setting.

METHODS: Plk1 expression was assayed in a panel of myeloma cell lines (MMCL) and AutoMACS-purified CD138+ patient bone marrow plasma cells (BMPC). The anti-myeloma effects of BI2536, alone or in combination with conventional agents, were assayed on myeloma cells with proliferation (MTS) and apoptosis (Annexin V/propidium iodide) assays. The phenotype of treated cells was examined with DNA content analysis and immunofluorescence microscopy. The efficacy of BI2536 monotherapy was evaluated in NOD/SCID mice bearing RPMI8226 xenografts.

RESULTS: Plk1 is ubiquitously expressed in myeloma to varying degrees in both MMCL and BMPC. BI2536 inhibited the proliferation of MMCL (RPMI 8226, U266, LP-1 and KMS-11) and patient BMPC at nanomolar concentrations. The addition of BI2536 was able to overcome resistance to dexamethasone. Bortezomib in combination with BI2536 had significantly increased anti-myeloma effects compared to the use of either agent alone. BI2536-treated MMCL accumulated 4N DNA content prior to undergoing apoptosis. The phenotype of BI2536-treated cells is consistent with inhibition of Plk1, showing prometaphase arrest and monopolar mitotic spindles in a dose-dependent fashion. BI2536 induces regression of human myeloma xenografts in NOD/SCID mice. Taken together, BI2536 is a promising new agent for the treatment of multiple myeloma. This work provides further evidence that Plk1 and the amplified myeloma centrosome are targets for therapy.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.