Introduction: Multiple myeloma (MM) is a plasma cell malignancy, characterized by plasma cell accumulation in the bone marrow (BM) associated with lytic bone disease. Despite the implementation of novel therapies, more than 70% of MM patients relapse due to drug resistance. Low oxygenation (hypoxia) in the BM microenvironment, which was shown to decrease beyond physiologic BM conditions during the progression of MM, together with cellular and acellular components, plays a critical role in drug resistance. Increased levels of the nuclear exporter of tumor suppressors, exportin 1 (XPO1), was demonstrated in MM, and XPO1 inhibition showed a broad anti-tumor activity. In this study, we tested inhibition of XPO1 using the novel oral, covalent, slowly reversible inhibitor of nuclear export selinexor currently in Phase I/II clinical trials on sensitizing the hypoxia-inducible drug resistant MM cells both in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: MM cell lines (MM1s, H929, OPM2 and U266) were treated with increasing concentrations of selinexor in normoxic (21% O2) and hypoxic (1% O2) conditions with or w/o bortezomib or carfilzomib. Assays included MTT proliferation Annexin V/PI staining for apoptosis, PI staining and immuniblots for cell cycle analysis.

We tested the effects of selinexor as a single agent on tumor initiation in vivo, where MM1s-Luc-GFP cells were injected intravenously (IV) into SCID mice and mice were treated instantaneously with selinexor (15mg/kg) or vehicle (PVP + F-68) three times a week. We also tested the effect of selinexor (15mg/kg) as a single agent on tumor progression and survival in mice with established MM tumor. Furthermore, we studied the effects of selinexor on sensitization to bortezomib-resistant MM cells in vivo. MM1s-Luc-GFP cells were injected IV into SCID mice and tumors were allowed to grow for three weeks. Animals were then treated with a high-dose of bortezomib (1.5mg/kg twice a week) for two weeks to induce resistance to bortezomib. The mice were then randomly divided into 3 groups treated with (1) bortezomib (0.5mg/kg), (2) KPT-330 (10mg/kg), and (3) a combination of selinexor and bortezomib. Selinexor was administered by oral gavage three times a week (days 1, 3 and 5) and bortezomib was injected intraperitoneally twice a week (days 1 and 4). Tumor progression was imaged using bioluminescence imaging (BLI).

Results: Selinexor, as a single agent, decreased proliferation, induced G1 cell cycle arrest and increased apoptosis of MM cells in both hypoxia and normoxia in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, we found that the combination of selinexor with bortezomib or carfilzomib reversed the hypoxia-induced resistance in MM cells to proteasome inhibition and induced a synergistic effect on the inhibition of cell proliferation, G1 arrest and apoptosis, which was confirmed by response of respective cell signaling pathways as PI3K, MAPK and JNK.

In vivo studies revealed that selinexor alone delayed tumor initiation and decreased by half existing tumor size as a single agent (p=0.0397), and significantly extended mice survival (53 days on vehicle versus 62 days on selinexor, p=000375). In addition, MM-bearing mice which developed resistance to bortezomib were resensitized by treatment of selinexor combined with bortezomib, decreasing tumor burden and showed considerably extended survival (half of the mice were alive at day 52) compared to mice treated with either selinexor (half of the mice were alive at day 49) or bortezomib alone (half of the mice were alive at day 40) (bortezomib versus selinexor p=0.0014, bortezomib versus combination treatment p=0.0004 as analyzed by Student t-test).

Conclusions: The orally available inhibitor of nuclear export, selinexor, decreased survival of MM cells in vitro and delayed tumor initiation and tumor progression in vivo as a single agent. In addition, selinexor overcame hypoxia-induced resistance to proteasome inhibitors and resensitized MM cells to therapy both in vitro and in vivo, extending mice survival. These data provide a basis for future clinical trials to sensitize relapsed/refractory MM patients to therapy by inhibition of XPO1 with selinexor as well as combination studies of selinexor and proteasome inhibitors. A study of selinexor and carfilzomib is currently ongoing and early results that were published last year showed marked activity for this combination treatment in heavily pretreated MM patients.


Landesman:Karyopharm: Employment. Azab:Karyopharm: Research Funding; Selexys: Research Funding; Verastem: Research Funding; Targeted Therapeutics LLC: Other: Founder and owner ; Cell Works: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.