Over expression of the PI3 kinase/mTOR/AKT pathway has been well documented in MM patient biopsies and human MM cell lines, suggesting this pathway plays a key role in the survival and proliferation of malignant plasma cells. Rapamycin and the rapalogs are allosteric inhibitors of the mTORC1 complex (consisting of mTOR, raptor, mLST8 and PRAS40), inducing mainly cytostatic effects but not cell death. Inhibition of mTORC1 prevents a negative feedback loop to the mTORC2 complex (consisting of mTOR, Rictor, mLST8 and Sin 1) leading to the phosphorylation of AKT. Phosphorylated AKT is a key inducer of anti-apoptosis mechanisms and cell cycle progression, which may explain the limited results of the rapalogs in the clinic. Recently developed mTOR kinase inhibitors (i.e., CC-223) target both mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes in order to inhibit tumor growth and importantly, induce cell death. Here we evaluate the effects of CC-223 on a panel of MM cell lines, in combination with current standard of care agents in MM (the corticosteroid, dexamethasone [DEX] and the IMiD® immunomodulatory drugs, lenalidomide [LEN] and pomalidomide [POM]), as well as in the context of LEN resistance.

Single agent CC-223 was shown to inhibit cell proliferation in a panel of 10 MM cell lines achieving IC50 values between 0.1-1 µM following 5 days of treatment. CC-223 also reduced cell viability reaching IC50 values between 0.4-1 µM in 5 out of 10 MM cell lines tested. CC-223 induced concentration-dependent G1 phase arrest within 24h of treatment followed by an induction of cell death by 48h. The anti-MM tumor activity of CC-223 (0.3-10 mg/kg) was further tested in SCID mice with xenotransplants of NCI-H929 grown to approximately 100-150 mm3 in size. A dose-dependent tumor growth inhibition and tumor growth delay was seen with once daily dosing of CC-223. Combination of CC-223 with standard of care therapy compounds was also evaluated in vitro. The combination of CC-223 and DEX demonstrated synergistic effects on the inhibition of cell proliferation in 6 MM cell lines (combination index: 0.0002-0.38) tested over 5 days. CC-223 also had synergistic effects on the same panel of MM cell lines when combined with LEN (combination index: 0.05-0.8).

Acquisition of drug resistance in patients receiving standard of care therapies is still one of the major clinical problems in MM. POM, the next generation of IMiD® immunomodulatory agents, has shown clinically meaningful results in patients that are resistant or have relapsed to their drug regimens, including LEN. We have recently developed in vitro cellular models of LEN-resistance using the H929 MM cell line. H929 cells with acquired resistance to LEN (H929 R10-1, R10-2, R10-3 and R10-4) were shown to have one copy number loss of cereblon compared to their matched LEN-sensitive control (H929 D1). In addition to this, protein expression analysis identified that these resistant cell lines also gained the activation of signaling pathways such as PI3K/AKT/mTOR, MEK/MAPK as well as anti-apoptotic factors. For example, S473 AKT phosphorylation was highly elevated in LEN-resistant cell lines which correlated with loss of PTEN protein expression (H929 R10-3 and R10-4). Interestingly, regardless of PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway status, all LEN-sensitive and resistant H929 cells responded to CC-223 treatment with a strong inhibition of cell proliferation (H929 D1 IC50 0.2 µM, and H929 R10 1-4 IC50 0.2-0.35 µM) and to a lesser effect, induction of cell death, over a 5 day period. Similar to the panel of MM cell lines, G1 arrest occurred after 24h treatment and cell death (Sub-G1) was increased by 72h of treatment. CC-223 treatment reduced S473 pAKT and p-4EBP1 after 1h while total AKT and 4EBP1 remained unchanged in both the sensitive and resistant MM cell lines. Combination treatment of LEN-sensitive and resistant H929 cells with CC-223 and POM had synergistic inhibitory effects on cell proliferation (combination index: 0.35-0.7) and cell viability (combination index: 0.15-0.42).

In conclusion, the mTOR kinase inhibitor, CC-223 potently inhibited MM cell proliferation by inducing G1 arrest and cell death in a panel of MM cell lines and reduction of tumor volume in vivo. The combination of LEN, POM or DEX with CC-223 had synergistic effects on MM cell proliferation and viability. Therefore, CC-223 in combination with other standard of care agents could become an important clinical tool for the treatment of MM in the future.


Rychak:Celgene Corporation: Employment, Equity Ownership. Mendy:Celgene: Employment, Equity Ownership. Miller:Celgene Corporation: Employment, Equity Ownership. Leisten:Celgene Corporation: Employment, Equity Ownership. Narla:Celgene Corporation: Employment, Equity Ownership. Raymon:Celgene Corporation: Employment, Equity Ownership. Chopra:Celgene: Employment, Equity Ownership. Lopez-Girona:Celgene: Employment, Equity Ownership.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.