CD138 is expressed on differentiated plasma cells and is involved in the development and/or proliferation of multiple myeloma (MM), for which it is a primary diagnostic marker. In this study, we report that immunoconjugates comprised of the murine/human chimeric CD138-specific monoclonal antibody nBT062 conjugated with highly cytotoxic maytansinoid derivatives (nBT062-SMCC-DM1, nBT062-SPDB-DM4 and nBT062-SPP-DM1) showed cytotoxic activity against CD138-positive MM cells both in vitro and in vivo. These agents demonstrated cytotoxicity against OPM1 and RPMI8226 (CD138-positive MM cell lines) in a dose and time-dependent fashion and were also cytotoxic against primary tumor cells from MM patients. Minimal cytotoxicity was noted in CD138-negative cell lines and no activity was observed against peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers, suggesting that CD138-targeting is important for immunoconjugate-mediated cytotoxicity. Examination of the mechanism of action whereby these immunoconjugates induced cytotoxicity in MM cells demonstrated that treatment triggered G2/M cell cycle arrest, followed by apoptosis associated with cleavage of PARP and caspase-3, -8 and -9. Neither interleukin-6 nor insulin-like growth factor-I could overcome the apoptotic effect of these agents. The level of soluble (s)CD138 in the BM plasma from 15 MM patients was evaluated to determine the potential impact of sCD138 on immunoconjugate function. The sCD138 level in BM plasma was found to be significantly lower than that present in MM cell culture supernatants where potent in vitro cytotoxicity was observed, suggesting that sCD138 levels in MM patient BM plasma would not interfere with immunoconjugate activity. Because adhesion to bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) triggers cell adhesion mediated drug resistance to conventional therapies, we next examined the effects of the conjugates on MM cell growth in the context of BMSC. Co-culture of MM cells with BMSCs, which protects against dexamethasoneinduced death, had no impact on the cytotoxicity of the immunoconjugates. The in vivo efficacy of these immunoconjugates was also evaluated in SCID mice bearing established CD138-positive MM xenografts and in a SCID-human bone xenograft model of myeloma. Significant tumor growth delay or regressions were observed at immunoconjugate concentrations that were well tolerated in all models tested. The ability of these agents to mediate bystander killing of proximal CD138-negative cells was also evaluated. While nBT062-SPDB-DM4 was inactive against CD138-negative Namalwa cells cultured alone, significant killing of these CD138-negative cells by nBT062-SPDB-DM4 was observed when mixed with CD138-positive OPM2 cells. This bystander killing may contribute to the eradication of MM tumors by disrupting the tumor microenvironment and/or killing CD138-negative MM tumor cells, such as the putative CD138 negative myeloma stem cells. These studies demonstrate strong evidence of in vitro and in vivo selective cytotoxicity of these immunoconjugates and provide the preclinical framework supporting evaluation of nBT062-based immunoconjugates in clinical trials to improve patient outcome in MM.

Disclosures: Hideshima:MMRF: Research Funding. Anderson:MMRF: Research Funding; NIH: Research Funding.

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