Immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) are key components of treatment for hematologic malignancies, especially multiple myeloma (MM). Recently, we demonstrated that CRBN expression is the major mediator of IMiD action operating at least in part via interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), however the clinical significance of this finding remains unclear.
To better understand clinical impact, we retrospectively reviewed 148 MM patients whose tumor cells were tested for CRBN expression by Gene Expression Profiling (GEP) prior to treatment with an IMiD containing therapy.
GEP studies show no significant differences in CRBN expression between MGUS, smoldering MM (SMM), untreated symptomatic MM and normal plasma cells. However, differences were observed between MM cell lines of varying drug sensitivity to IMiDs and between other B-cell Neoplasia (eg low grade lymphoma has higher levels). Within the genetic subtypes of MM, levels were significantly higher for hyperdiploid patients (median 1.26) as opposed to significantly lower levels for TC class D2 (median 0.76) and average for the 4p16 (median 0.97). We next screened the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) GEP database of MM patients treated with combination therapies and did not find significant correlation between CRBN expression and survival in this multi-agent regimen. We then focused on patients that received only single agent IMiD therapy with low dose dexamethasone. Review of the twelve lowest expressing patients demonstrated a lack of response to IMiDs in any patient. Finally we analyzed 53 relapsed or relapsed/refractory patients treated homogeneously in a study with pomalidomide 2–4mg daily and weekly dexamethasone 40mg. CRBN levels were assessed prior to therapy initiation. Response rates varied significantly based on gene expression level. The percentage of patients that demonstrated at least a partial response was 0% for CRBN <0.81, 19% for CRBN expression of 0.81–0.90, and 33% for CBN expression >0.9. Significant differences in PFS (3.0 months vs. 8.9 months, p = 0.0006) and in OS (9.1 months vs. 27.2 months, p = 0.01) were observed when the lowest quartile of CRBN expression was compared to the top three quartiles. Values used for the cut offs are as follows: (25%: 0.889687; 50%: 1.026542, 75%: 1.211133). While this study demonstrates a positive correlation between CRBN expression and response to pomalidomide and dexamethasone, an important caveat with respect to PFS and OS is that CRBN mRNA level is primarily a reflection of the number of copies of CRBN. Since focal deletions are uncommon, this mostly reflects chromosome 3p copy number. Since trisomy 3 is common in hyperdiploid, good prognosis disease, CRBN not only is required for IMiD function but higher levels also serve as a surrogate for low risk disease. Optimal gene expression cut offs for survival were determined using the Contal and O'Quigley method. The optimal cut point for PFS was 1.18443 and for OS was 1.17816.
In summary, this study demonstrates, for the first time, a clinical correlation between CRBN expression and response to IMiD and dexamethasone therapy. CRBN expression is also predictive of survival outcomes and when quantified prior to therapy could potentially be utilized as a predictive biomarker for response to an IMiD based treatment.
Stewart:Celgene: Consultancy, Honoraria.
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