The proliferation of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) cells and the transformation of normal hematopoietic cells by BCR-ABL appear to require the expression of a functional MYC protein, suggesting an approach to treatment of Philadelphia leukemias based on simultaneous targeting of BCR-ABL and c-MYC. To test this hypothesis, CML-blast crisis (CML-BC) primary cells were treated in vitro with bcr-abl and c- myc antisense phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides ([S]ODNs), individually or in combination. Compared with antisense ODNs targeting of individual oncogenes, downregulation of both BCR-ABL and c-MYC by specific antisense [S]ODNs resulted in a synergistic antiproliferative effect. Colony formation of normal bone marrow cells was not affected by either treatment. To assess the therapeutic potential of multiple oncogene downregulation, SCID mice injected with CML-BC primary cells were treated systematically with equal doses of bcr-abl or c-myc antisense [S]ODNs or with a combination of both antisense [S]ODNs. Compared with mice treated with individual compounds, the disease process was significantly retarded in the group treated with both [S]ODNs as revealed by flow cytometry, clonogenic assay, and RT-PCR analysis to detect leukemic cells in mouse tissue cell suspensions. These effects correlated with a markedly increased survival of leukemic mice treated with both antisense [S]ODNs. Leukemic cells harvested from antisense [S]ODN-treated mice were sensitive to the effects of antisense [S]ODNs in vitro, suggesting that the treatment can be successfully repeated. These data demonstrate the therapeutic potential of targeting multiple cooperating oncogenes.

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