SF3B1 mutations disrupt normal pre-mRNA splicing to cause disease. Drugs inhibiting the interaction between the SF3b complex and RNA or agents degrading auxiliary splicing factors are being tested as new avenues for targeted therapy in myeloid neoplasia (MN) with SF3B1 mutations. Here we describe the ability of small molecules to restore altered RNA processes in SF3B1MT MN.

We previously reported (Visconte, ASH 2018) the identification of the small molecule 4-pyridyl-2-anilinothiazole (PAT) which showed growth inhibition of CRISPR/Cas9 SF3B1+/K700E cells and primary SF3B1MT cells. PAT did not influence the growth of other cell models without (THP1, MOLM13FLT3, OCIAML3DNMT3A, SIGM5TET2/DNMT3A, K562PHF6) and with other splicing factor mutations (K562U2AF1, K562LUC7L2). We now describe data from medicinal chemistry, transcriptome, and in vivo studies to advance drug development for SF3B1MT MN. SAR studies focused on logical and systematic modifications of PAT, e.g., i) replacement of the 2,4-disubstituted thiazole spacer ring with other heteroatom containing rings (5,6,7 membered aromatic or aliphatic ring structures); ii) alternative linking groups for the NH linker of the aniline of the tail region (sulfonamide, amide, substituted amine linkers); iii) alternative substituted aromatic and aliphatic ring structures for the phenyl head region substituent, led us to identify permissive sites for further chemical optimization. For example, a 4-chlorophenyl analog demonstrated activity [IC50, 3μM] similar to PAT. Competitive repopulation assays of bone marrow (BM) cells from dual reporters (ACTBtdTomato; EGFP) B6.GtROSA26 mixed with BM cells from conditional knock-in Sf3b1+/K700E mice injected in pre-lethally irradiated B6.SJL-PtprcaPepcb/BoyJ (CD45.1) recipients (n=18) were used as a preclinical murine model. This model then allowed i) demonstration of drug efficacy in reducing the competitiveness of SF3B1MT cells and ii) evaluation of therapeutic index in normal hematopoiesis. Post-transplant recovery, recipients of B6.GtROSA26 cells underwent PAT treatment (10 mg/Kg/IP/5 days weekly) for a period of 6 weeks without showing any signs of distress or drug intolerance (drop in blood count, weight loss, abdominal swelling, liver or kidney toxicity). Two weeks after transplantation, donor Sf3b1+/K700E cells had an engraftment capability similar to that of donor B6.GtROSA26 cells (83.6 ± 4 vs. 86.4 ± 2.4) when transplanted as a sole graft in CD45.1 recipients. PAT reduced almost half the percentage of Sf3b1+/K700E donor cells at 6 weeks of treatment (47.4%) vs. pre-treatment (83.6%). In mixed (1:1) BM transplants, Sf3b1+/K700E cellshad a repopulative disadvantage against competitors B6.GtROSA26 contributing for 16% of the marrow reconstitution. Similar to single graft transplants, PAT decreased the percentage of Sf3b1+/K700E cells at 6 weeks vs. pre-treatment (average, 6% vs. 16%) in chimeras. Consistent with the lack of toxicity of PAT treatment B6.GtROSA26 cells in chimeras were not affected by PAT and gradually repopulated the host (post-treatment, 80% vs. pre-treatment, 64%). Subsequently, we focused our efforts identifying important genes known to be dysregulated in MDS that were mostly influenced by drug treatment and minimally affected in normal cells. Our approach was based on the analyses of genes linked to erythropoiesis (a key hallmark of low-risk MDS). In normal hematopoiesis TGF-β signaling inhibits terminal erythroid maturation. Out of 13,775 genes, 5% (664/13,775) were found differentially expressed between CRISPR/Cas9 SF3B1+/K700E and parental cells of which 60% of these genes were significantly up-regulated and 40% down-regulated. Pathway analysis showed that the expression levels of SMAD family of genes and GDF factors changed significantly upon drug treatment. SMAD7 mRNA levels are 3-fold lower in MDS CD34+ cells (n=159) compared to the ones of healthy subjects (n=17) (GEO accession GSE58831) leading to TGF-β over activation. PAT treatment normalized SMAD7 expression levels in CRISPR/Cas9 SF3B1+/K700E cells by 3-fold while reducing the levels of GDF11.

In summary, we have identified new drug entities that are modulators of transcriptomic changes which decrease the competitiveness of SF3B1MT cells. These results suggest combination therapies with current TGF-β pathway inhibitors.


Advani:Glycomimetics: Consultancy, Research Funding; Kite Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Amgen: Research Funding; Pfizer: Honoraria, Research Funding; Macrogenics: Research Funding; Abbvie: Research Funding. Kelly:Novartis, Bayer, Janssen, Pharmacyclics, Celgene, Astrazeneca, Seattle Genetics: Honoraria, Speakers Bureau; Takeda: Research Funding; Genentech, Verastem: Consultancy. Sekeres:Syros: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Millenium: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Celgene: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Maciejewski:Novartis: Consultancy; Alexion: Consultancy.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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