Multiple myeloma (MM) plasma cell growth in the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment is fueled by survival signals delivered by the surrounding non-malignant cells (stromal and other types) and through contacts with the extracelllar matrix. Interactions of MM cells with osteoclasts and osteoblasts generate a milieu, in which bone resorption and bone loss occur more rapidly than bone deposition. Novel agents, such as bortezomib and lenalidomide, which target the MM BM microenvironment, have shown unprecedented anti-myeloma efficacy in part due to their ability to somewhat revert these microenvironmental alterations. However, often resistance occurs also to novel drugs and the disease progresses. We have described that targeting protein kinase CK2 with chemical inhibitors or RNA interference causes MM cell death, increases the sensitivity to chemotherapeutics and compromises the NF-κB and STAT3 activity (Piazza FA et al. 2006, Blood; 108: 1698). We also found that CK2 inhibitors synergize with Hsp90 inhibitors (Manni S et al. 2012, Clinical Cancer Res; 18: 1888) and bortezomib (Manni S et al., Blood (2011 ASH Annual Meeting Abstracts); 118; 1849) in inducing MM cell death. Moreover, a phase I clinical trial is ongoing in USA (ID: NCT01199718) testing the oral CK2 inhibitor CX4945 (Cylene Pharmaceuticals, CA, USA) in MM patients.
We investigated whether and how CK2 inhibition with ATP-competitive CX4945 and tTBB inhibitors could affect the growth of MM cells and of osteoprogenitors in models of BM microenvironemnt. The aim of the study was to provide further insights into the mechanism of action of CK2 inhibitors also in the MM microenvironment, in particular on the stromal cell-mediated MM cell survival and on the unbalanced bone metabolism. We ultimately aimed at generating original data useful for the design of novel rational combination therapies incorporating CK2 inhibitors in the therapy of MM and of MM-bone disease.
MM plasma cells from patients and MM cell lines were cultured in the presence of BM stromal cells obtained from MM patients or BM stromal cell lines or in the presence of osteoclasts. ATP-competitive CK2 inhibitors were added to the co-cultures or to cultures of osteoblast cell lines or progenitors. Cell growth was evaluated with different means and signaling pathways were studied in MM plasma cells and in the stromal cells. NF-κB target gene expression and DNA binding was tested with microplate arrays. For osteoclast generation, CD14+ peripheral blood monocytes were stimulated in alpha-MEM medium with 10% FBS plus RANKL (60ng/ml) plus M-CSF (25ng/ml) for 28 days; early-osteoblasts colonies were obtained from BM cells stimulated under appropriate conditions.
CK2 inhibition with CX4945 or tTBB caused apoptosis of MM cells (either freshly isolated from patients or cell lines) cultured on patient-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) or on the BM stromal cell line HS-5. The inhibitors did not significantly affect MSC viability. A reduction of NF-κB activity evaluated in MM cells was found upon CK2 inhibition, with a parallel reduction of the production of NF-κB-dependent cytokines. When assayed on osteoprogenitors, CX4945 displayed an inhibitory effect on osteoclast formation from CD14+ monocytes even at low concentrations (1 μM up to 7 μM, comparable with the effects of zolendronate 1 μM), whereas it inhibited the formation of osteoblasts from BM colonies at day 14 at fairly higher concentrations (>5 μM). Moreover, CX4945 inhibited osteoblast proliferation at even higher concentration (>7.5 μM). The anti-myeloma effect of CK2 inhibitors was present also when MM cells (INA-6 cell line) were cultured in the presence of osteoclasts generated from CD14+ monocytes.
Our study shows that inhibition of CK2 could profoundly affect the growth of MM cells in models of BM microenvironment while substantially sparing the normal cellular stromal counterparts and osteoblasts and suggests that CK2 inhibitors could be exploited to target the hyperactivity of osteoclast seen in MM bone disease.
Giuliani:Celgene: Research Funding.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.