Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukemia in adults in the Western world. This leukemia is not curable and resistance to therapy is promoted by factors present in the tumor microenvironment including the chemokine CXCL12 (SDF-1), which interacts with its receptor CXCR4 and is thought to promote cancer cell survival. Here we explored the therapeutic potential of blocking CXCL12-CXCR4 interactions using PF-06747143, a humanized IgG1 antibody specific for CXCR4, which is expressed at high levels by CLL cells.

Using primary leukemia cells from CLL patients, we found that PF-06747143 inhibited CXCL12-induced cell migration and blocked cytoskeletal changes via F-actin polymerization similar to AMD-3100 (Mozobil, a small molecule inhibitor of CXCR4). In addition, PF-06747143 induced apoptosis on CLL cells cultured alone or in the presence of human bone marrow-derived stromal cells (stroma-NK-tert). The pro-apoptotic activity of PF-06747143 was independent of high-risk prognostic factors including IGHV mutation status, ZAP-70 expression or TP53 mutation / 17p-deletion. Interestingly, AMD-3100, which binds and inhibits signaling through CXCR4, did not induce cell death in CLL or any of the cell lines tested.

PF-06747143 did not induce apoptosis on normal B and T cells, and the ability of this anti-CXCR4 antibody to induce cell death on CLL cells appeared to be dependent on the crosslinking of CXCR4. This was supported by the fact that a Fab only fragment derived from PF-06747143 did not induce apoptosis despite of its high binding affinity for CXCR4.

We observed that PF-06747143 induced complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) in CLL cells. However, this antibody did not induce caspase activation but rather its cell death activity appeared to be dependent on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in leukemia cells. This effect was similar to that observed with other ROS dependent antibodies such as obinutuzumab (Gazyva). ROS induction was observed with PF-06747143, but not its Fab derived fragment and preceded apoptosis suggesting that this is critical component of its mechanism of action.

We evaluated synergism of PF-06747143 with other CLL therapeutic agents and observed that this antibody synergized with fludarabine, bendamustine, ibrutinib and rituximab in the majority of CLL patient samples tested.

In summary, our studies showed that PF-06747143, a CXCR4 IgG1 antibody is a potent inhibitor of the CXCR4-CXCL12 pathway and induces cell death primarily in CLL cells but not in normal lymphocytes. The cytotoxic effect of PF-06747143 was similar in CLL cells cultured alone or with stromal cells, suggesting that this antibody has the potential to overcome the protective effect of the tumor microenvironment. We also showed that PF-06747143 induced programmed cell death on CLL cells was dependent on ROS production and that this antibody synergized with agents currently used for the treatment of CLL patients. Overall, these findings highlight the biological relevance of the CXCR4-CXCL12 pathway in CLL, and provide rationale for clinical evaluation of PF-06747143 in CLL and other cancers.


Choi:Gilead: Consultancy, Other: Advisory Board, Speakers Bureau; AbbVie: Consultancy, Other: Advisory Board, Research Funding. Kipps:Pharmacyclics Abbvie Celgene Genentech Astra Zeneca Gilead Sciences: Other: Advisor.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.