The checkpoint kinases 1 (CHK1) and 2 (CHK2) are serine-threonine kinases involved in the signal transduction mechanims of the DNA damage response pathway. Once activated by upstream kinases [Ataxia-Telangiectasia mutated (ATM) and Ataxia-Telangiectasia and Rad3-related (ATR) kinases] following DNA damage, they phosphorylate downstream targets such as CDC25 phosphatases and p53, promoting G2/M cell cycle arrest, in order to facilitate DNA repair. Furthermore is now clear that the efficacy of conventional DNA-damaging anticancer drugs is limited by the activity of these protective cell cycle checkpoints. The tumor suppressor p53 is activated in normal cells following extensive DNA damage and promotes G1 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Cells lacking p53 activity are more resistant to genotoxic agents. It has been shown that CHK inhibition enhances the efficacy of DNA damaging agents in a variety of tumors, by inhibiting the response to DNA damage, preferentially in p53 deficient cells, that rely on the G2/M checkpoint, having a dysfunctional G1 checkpoint. DLBCL harboring p53 mutations and/or CDKN2A loss have been recently shown to have a dismal outcome, being refractory to conventional antracyclin-based chemotherapy. Few data are available on the role of CHK inhibitors in Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma (DLBCL). In this study we report the activity profile of the CHK1/2 inhibitor PF-0477736 (Pfizer) in a large panel of B cell lymphoma cell lines, and explore its mechanisms of action. Nine cell lines were used for in vitro viability assays: 3 Germinal center (GCB) Diffuse Large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) derived cell lines (SUDHL-4, SHDHL-6, BJAB), 3 Activated B cell (ABC) DLBCL (HBL-1, U2932, TMD8), 2 mantle cell lymphoma (Mino, SP-53), and the Hodgkin Lymphoma cell line KM-H2. All the cell lines were screened for p53 and CDKN2A mutations and deletions. P53 mutations were detected in the following cell lines: HBL-1, U2932, SUDHL-6, BJAB, Mino, SP-53. TMD8 was p53 wild-type but an homozygous deletion of CDKN2A was detected. Of note SUDHL-4 and KM-H2 were p53 wild type, with no deletion of CDKN2A. To assess the effect of PF-0477736 on cell proliferation, cells were first incubated with increasing concentrations of PF-0477736 (from 5 to 2000 nM) for 24, 48 and 72 hours (hrs), and cell viability assessed by WST-1 assay (Roche). A significant growth inhibition was evident after 48 hrs of incubation, in all cell lines, excluding SUDHL-4 and KM-H2 that were resistant (IC50 8300 and 6800 nM at 48 hrs, respectively). The BJAB cell line showed the highest sensitivity, with a decrease in cell viability close to 50% following incubation with PF-0477736 10nM for 24 hours. The IC50 ranged from 140 to 230 nM at 48 hrs in the other sensitive cell lines. Using Annexin V- propidium iodide staining, we found that PF-0477736 250–500 nM induced cell death by apoptosis in a time and dose dependent manner after 24 and 48 hours of incubation. Lower concentrations of PF-0477736 (25–50 nM) promoted a statistically significant increase in cell death only in the BJAB cells. For functional studies we characterized the two most sensitive cell lines (BJAB and U2932) and the two resistant cell lines (SUDHL-4 and KM-H2). Inhibition of cdc25c ser216 phosphorylation was observed by western blot as soon as after 24 hrs of incubation with concentrations equal to the IC50 (25–250 nM). A marked increase in levels of the DNA damage marker γH2AX, was detected in the BJAB, U2932, SUDHL-4 cell lines after 24 hrs. KM-H2 did not show any increase of γH2AX following treatment. All the cell lines demonstrated baseline CHK1 activation but there was no correlation with outcome. Interestingly levels of baseline pcdc25c ser216 were higher in the sensitive BJAB and U2932 cells. PF-0477736 at the fixed dose of 50 nM synergistically enhanced the efficacy of Doxorubicin (0.1 to 1 μM) in the BJAB and U2932 cells at 24 hrs.
These data suggest that PF-0477736 has single agent activity and synergizes with chemotherapy in DLBCL. The integrity of the p53 axis seems to be the major determinant of efficacy of PF-0477736. The drug shows high single agent activity in the subset of DLBCL with genomic lesions of the p53 pathway, that are resistant to conventional chemotherapy and associated with dismal outcome. Our study provides the rationale for further clinical investigation of PF-0477736 in DLBCL alone or in combination with chemotherapy.
PF-0477736 was provided by Pfizer.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.