Nowadays the effectiveness of the treatments for adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) patients is still inadequate and frequently many patients after years of response to treatments develop relapses. Thus there is a need to find novel targets for specific therapies and to maximize the effect of the actual treatments. Recently different Checkpoint Kinase (Chk)1/Chk2 inhibitors has been assessed for the treatment of different type of cancers but only few studies have been performed on hematological diseases. We evaluated the effectiveness of the Chk1 inhibitor, LY2606368, as single agent and in combination with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (imatinib and dasatinib) or with the purine nucleoside antimetabolite clofarabine in B-/T- acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cell lines and in primary blasts. Human B (BV-173, SUPB-15, NALM-6, NALM-19 and REH) and T (MOLT-4, RPMI-8402 and CEM) ALL cell lines were incubated with increasing concentrations of drug (1-100 nM) for 24 and 48 hours and the reduction of the cell viability was evaluated using WST-1 reagent. LY2606368 deeply reduced the cell viability in a dose and time dependent manner in all the cell lines, with the BV-173 (6.33 nM IC50 24hrs) and RPMI-8402 (8.07 nM IC50 24hrs) being the most sensitive while SUP-B15 (61.4 nM IC50 24hrs) and REH (96.7 nM IC50 24hrs) being the less sensitive cell lines. Moreover the sensitivity to the compound was no correlated with the different sub-type of ALL or with the mutational status of p53, which is a marker of the functionality of the G1/S checkpoint. The cytotoxic activity was confirmed by the significant increment of apoptosis cells (Annexin V/Propidium Iodide), by the increment of gH2AX foci and by the activation of different apoptotic markers (Parp-1 and pro-Caspase3 cleavage). To understand the relationship between the activation of apoptosis and the effect on cell cycle and to identify hypothetical mechanisms of death, different cell cycle analyses were performed (Propidium Iodide staining). The inhibition of Chk1, deeply changed the cell cycle profile. Indeed in all the cell lines the percentage of cells in S phase and in G2/M phase were reduced by the treatment while the numbers of cells in sub-G1 and G1 phase were increased. The hypothetical function of LY2606368 as a chemosensitizer agent was evaluated combining the compound with different drugs normally used in clinical trials. For each drugs the combination strongly reduced the cell viability when compared to the cytotoxic effect of the single drugs. Moreover the combination showed an additive efficacy in term of induction of DNA damages as showed by the increase number of gH2AX foci and the activation of pChk1 (ser 317). The results found on the cell lines were confirmed also using primary leukemic blast isolated from adult Philadelphia-positive ALL patients. Indeed LY2606368 as single agent or in combination with the Tki, imatinib, was able to deeply reduce the cell viability and to induce DNA damages (gH2AX foci). In conclusion LY2606368 showed a strong cytotoxic activity on B-/T-All cell lines and primary blasts as single agent and in combination with other drugs. In our opinion this data are the basis for a future clinical evaluation of this compound in the treatment of leukemia.

Supported by ELN, AIL, AIRC, progetto Regione-Università 2010-12 (L. Bolondi), FP7 NGS-PTL project.


Soverini:Novartis, Briston-Myers Squibb, ARIAD: Consultancy. Cavo:JANSSEN, CELGENE, AMGEN: Consultancy. Martinelli:ROCHE: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; BMS: Consultancy, Speakers Bureau; Pfizer: Consultancy; Ariad: Consultancy; AMGEN: Consultancy; MSD: Consultancy.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.