Significant progress notwithstanding, drug resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) remains a therapeutic challenge, as well as acute and long-term off-target toxicity of anti-ALL therapies can be dose-limiting or debilitating. Therefore, the development of more targeted therapies is desirable. We recently provided evidence that chemotherapy resistance of ALL cells can be partly overcome by interfering with the function of VLA4, the alpha4beta1 integrin, in vivo. In those studies, we used the anti-functional antibody Natalizumab. We extended our studies to an alternative VLA4 inhibitor, the novel non-peptidic small molecule TBC3486. Previous in vitro assays and molecular modeling studies indicate that TBC3486 behaves as a ligand mimetic, competing with VCAM-1 for the MIDAS site of VLA-4. As such, the compound has been shown to be efficacious in VLA-4 dependent models of inflammatory and autoimmune disease. The potential usefulness of this novel inhibitor in leukemia treatment was tested in our established in vitro and in vivo assays. LAX7R cells, primary pre-B-ALL with a normal karyotype from a patient with an early relapse, were used throughout for the studies reported here. LAX7R cells were treated with 25μM TBC3486 or THI0012 control, the inactive enantiomer of TBC3486, and seeded onto plates coated with human VCAM-1. Adhesion, scored after 2 days, was significantly inhibited by TBC3486 compared to control treated cells (7.9%±4.0 vs 95.4%±8.0; p=0.003). Proliferation rate and cell viability were unaffected by the treatments. In a co-culture system of LAX7R cells with OP9 stroma cells, which we use as an in vitro model of stroma-mediated chemotherapy resistance, we assessed differential effects of VDL (Vincristine, Dexamethasone, L-Asparaginase) on leukemia cell survival in the presence or absence of TBC3486. Stromal adhesion significantly protected LAX7R cells against VDL chemotherapy; this effect was significantly attenuated by TBC3486 compared to the control as determined by Trypan blue exclusion of dead cells (Cell viability of 39.9%±5.1 vs. 57.2±1.8; p=0.02). After these encouraging observations, we next evaluated the benefit of TBC3486 on leukemia progression in a xenotransplant assay. LAX7R cells were lentivirally labelled with luciferase for in vivo tracking and injected into NOD/SCID hosts. Three days after leukemia cell transfer, mice received either TBC3486 or THI0012 (control) (10mg/kg/d) daily for 2 weeks (intraperitoneally), with or without VDL chemotherapy. This experiment is in progress, but already survival of leukemia-bearing mice was significantly prolonged, from a median survival time (MST) for control mice of 33 days post-leukemia injection to a MST of 47 days post-leukemia injection for TBC3486 treated mice (p=0.02). Similarly, bioluminescence imaging revealed a marked delay of leukemia cell dissemination (p<0.0001). Taken together, our data demonstrate that small molecule inhibition of VLA4 using the novel TBC3486 is a suitable approach for targeting of chemotherapy-resistant leukemia. Further studies are warranted to understand and evaluate preclinically adjuvant small molecule inhibition of integrins to overcome relapse of ALL.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.