Proteasome inhibitors have proven particularly effective in treatment of multiple myeloma, the second most frequent hematologic malignancy in the western world. Bortezomib, the first in class proteasome inhibitor in clinical use, was first approved in 2003 via fast FDA track, given the remarkable activity shown during phase II clinical trials. Nevertheless, more than 50% of multiple myeloma patients did not respond to single agent bortezomib when administered as second line agent. Moreover, bortezomib is only available for intravenous administration, representing a cumbersome therapy for patients, and its use is limited by significant toxicities (especially peripheral neuropathy).
MLN9708 (Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), an investigational orally available, small molecule, is a potent, specific and reversible inhibitor of the 20S proteasome. It is currently under clinical investigation for the treatment of hematologic and non-hematologic malignancies. Upon exposure to aqueous solutions or plasma, MLN9708 rapidly hydrolyzes to MLN2238, the biologically active form, and MLN2238 was used for all of the preclinical studies reported here. In vitro biochemistry studies have shown that MLN2238 has a faster dissociation rate from the proteasome compared to bortezomib, and in vivo studies of MLN2238 have shown antitumor activity in a broader range of tumor xenografts when compared to bortezomib. Given these encouraging preclinical results, we set to investigate the anti-myeloma activity of MLN2238 in vitro.
MLN2238 proved to have anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activity against a broad range of MM cell lines with EC50 at 24 hours ranging between 10 and 50 nM, even in relatively resistant MM cell lines (OPM2, DOX6, RPMI, etc.). In MM.1S cells, induction of apoptosis was time and dose dependent and related to activation of both caspase 8 and 9. When compared to MM.1S treated for 24 hours with EC50 dose of bortezomib, treatment with EC50 dose of MLN2238 resulted in the same extent of caspases cleavage occurring at an earlier time point (8-12 hours), possibly suggesting more rapid onset and/or irreversibility of apoptosis in cells treated with MLN2238.
Treatment with MLN2238 was associated with early, but persistent induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress with BiP being induced 2–4 hours after treatment with EC50 dose and gradually increasing over time. While bortezomib has been associated with early induction and late decrease in proteins involved in ER stress, MLN2238 appears to induce a persistent rise in these factors, suggesting either more sustained proteasome blockade with stabilization of proteasome substrates or de-novo induction of unfolded protein response (UPR) genes. MLN2238 also proved effective in reducing phosphorylation of ERK1-2 with no overall alteration in the total ERK level, thus accounting for the observed reduction in proliferation upon treatment.
Preliminary data indicate potential for additive and synergistic combination with widely used drugs, including doxorubicin and dexamethasone.
While further clinical data are needed to establish the effectiveness of MLN2238 in the treatment of multiple myeloma, these preliminary nonclinical data, together with the favorable biochemical and pharmacokinetic properties, including oral bioavailability, make the investigational agent MLN9708 an appealing candidate for treatment of multiple myeloma. Further in vitro data could help establish whether a difference in the apoptotic mechanisms exist between MLN2238 and other proteasome inhibitors, primarily bortezomib, and could also help inform combination treatment approaches aimed at increasing effectiveness, overcoming bortezomib resistance and decreasing toxicity.
Kumar:Celgene: Consultancy, Research Funding; Millennium: Research Funding; Merck: Consultancy, Research Funding; Novartis: Research Funding; Genzyme: Consultancy, Research Funding; Cephalon: Research Funding.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.