Background: MDM2, a negative regulator of the tumor suppressor p53, is overexpressed in several cancers including hematological malignancies. Disrupting the MDM2-p53 interaction represents an attractive approach to treat cancers expressing wild-type functional p53. Anticancer activity of small molecule MDM2 inhibitor milademetan (DS-3032b) has been demonstrated in preclinical studies and in a phase 1 trial in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndrome. Quizartinib is a highly selective and potent FLT3 inhibitor that has demonstrated single-agent activity and improvement in overall survival in a phase 3 clinical study in relapsed/refractory AML with FLT3-internal tandem duplication (FLT3-ITD) mutations. We present here the preclinical studies exploring the rationale and molecular basis for the combination of quizartinib and milademetan for the treatment of FLT3-ITD mutant/TP53 wild-type AML.

Methods: We investigated the effect of quizartinib and milademetan combination on cell viability and apoptosis in established AML cell lines, including MV-4-11, MOLM-13 and MOLM-14, which harbor FLT3-ITD mutations and wild type TP53. Cells were treated with quizartinib and milademetan at specified concentrations; cell viability and caspase activation were determined by chemiluminescent assays, and annexin V positive fractions were determined by flow cytometry. We further investigated the effect of the combination of quizartinib and the murine specific MDM2 inhibitor DS-5272 in murine leukemia cell lines Ba/F3-FLT3-ITD, Ba/F3-FLT3-ITD+F691L and Ba/F3-FLT3-ITD+D835Y, which harbor FLT3-ITD, ITD plus F691L and ITD plus D835Y mutations, respectively. F691L or D835Y mutations are associated with resistance to FLT3-targeted AML therapy. In vivo efficacy of combination treatment was investigated in subcutaneous and intravenous xenograft models generated in male NOD/SCID mice inoculated with MOLM-13 and MV-4-11 human AML cells.

Results: Combination treatment with milademetan (or DS-5272) and quizartinib demonstrated synergistic anti-leukemic activity compared to the respective single-agent treatments in FLT3 mutated and TP53 wild type cells. Combination indices (CIs) were 0.25 ± 0.06, 0.61 ± 0.03, 0.62 ± 0.06, 0.29 ± 0.004 and 0.50 ± 0.03, respectively, in MV-4-11, MOLM-13, MOLM-14, Ba/F3-FLT3-ITD+F691L and D835Y cell lines, all of which harbor FLT3-ITD or ITD plus TKD point mutations. The combination regimen triggered synergistic pro-apoptotic effect in a p53-dependent manner as shown by annexin-V staining and caspase 3/7 assays. Mechanistically, the combination treatment resulted in significant suppression of phospho-FLT3, phospho-ERK and phospho-AKT and anti-apoptotic Bcl2 family proteins (eg, Mcl-1), as well as up-regulation of p53, p21 and pro-apoptotic protein PUMA, compared to single agent treatments. Of note, the combination regimen also exerted a synergistic pro-apoptotic effect on venetoclax (BCL-2 inhibitor)-resistant MOLM-13 cells (CI: 0.39 ± 0.04) through profound suppression of Mcl-1. In an in vivo study using the MOLM-13 subcutaneous mouse xenograft model, quizartinib at 0.5 and 1 mg/kg and milademetan at 25 and 50 mg/kg demonstrated a significant tumor growth inhibition compared with vehicle treatment or respective single-agent treatments. In MV-4-11 intravenous mouse xenograft model, the combination of quizartinib plus milademetan showed a significantly prolonged survival, with no animal death in the combination group during the study period, compared to respective single agent treatments and untreated control (Figure).

Conclusion: Synergistic anti-leukemic activity was observed for quizartinib plus milademetan combination treatment in preclinical AML models. A phase I clinical trial of quizartinib/milademetan combination therapy in patients with FLT3-ITD mutant AML is underway.

Figure. Effects of quizartinib, milademetan and their combination on survival of mice intravenously inoculated with human MV-4-11 AML cells


Andreeff:Oncoceutics: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Jazz Pharma: Consultancy; Aptose: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Consultancy; Eutropics: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Amgen: Consultancy, Research Funding; United Therapeutics: Patents & Royalties: GD2 inhibition in breast cancer ; Oncolyze: Equity Ownership; Astra Zeneca: Research Funding; Reata: Equity Ownership; Daiichi-Sankyo: Consultancy, Patents & Royalties: MDM2 inhibitor activity patent, Research Funding; SentiBio: Equity Ownership. Kumar:Daiichi Sankyo: Employment, Equity Ownership. Zernovak:Daiichi Sankyo: Employment, Equity Ownership. Daver:Pfizer: Research Funding; ImmunoGen: Consultancy; Otsuka: Consultancy; Karyopharm: Research Funding; Alexion: Consultancy; ARIAD: Research Funding; Daiichi-Sankyo: Research Funding; BMS: Research Funding; Karyopharm: Consultancy; Novartis: Consultancy; Novartis: Research Funding; Incyte: Research Funding; Kiromic: Research Funding; Sunesis: Research Funding; Incyte: Consultancy; Pfizer: Consultancy; Sunesis: Consultancy. Isoyama:Daiichi SANKYO CO., LTD.: Employment. Iwanaga:Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.: Employment. Togashi:Daiichi SANKYO CO., LTD.: Employment. Seki:Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.: Employment.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.