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768 Mcl-1/CDK9 Targeting By AZD5991/AZD4573 Overcomes Intrinsic and Acquired Venetoclax Resistance in Vitro and In Vivo in PDX Model of AML through Modulation of Cell Death and Metabolic Functions

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Type: Oral
Session: 616. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Novel Therapy, excluding Transplantation: New Treatment Strategies
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
apoptosis, AML, Diseases, Therapies, Biological Processes, Myeloid Malignancies, metabolomics
Monday, December 3, 2018: 4:00 PM
Seaport Ballroom F (Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego)

Bing Z Carter, PhD1, Po Yee Mak2*, Wenjing Tao2*, Mark Warmoes3*, Philip L Lorenzi, PhD3, Duncan Mak, BSc, MPhil2*, Vivian Ruvolo, MS2*, Xiangmeng Wang2*, Huaxian Ma, MS4*, Hong Mu, MD, PhD4*, Justin Cidado, PhD5*, Lisa Drew, PhD5* and Michael Andreeff, MD, PhD2

1Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy, Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
2Section of Molecular Hematology and Therapy, Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
3Bioinformatics & Comp Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
4Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
5Oncology IMED Biotech Unit, AstraZeneca, Waltham, MA

Mcl-1 and Bcl-2 are two major anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins frequently overexpressed in malignant cells. They cooperatively support cell survival and are associated with therapy resistance. ABT-199 (venetoclax), a highly selective Bcl-2 inhibitor, showed potent preclinical activity but limited clinical efficacy in AML as a single agent. Mcl-1 is induced by and a major resistance factor to ABT-199. Mcl-1 was recently found to also positively regulate mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation that induces cancer stem cells and promotes chemoresistance. Mcl-1 is essential for the development of AML and for the survival of AML cells and stem cells. Increased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation has been demonstrated in these cells.

First we found that Mcl-1 overexpressing (OE)/knockdown (KD) AML cells were markedly more resistant/sensitive to ABT-199 than were corresponding control cells, supporting the notion of Mcl-1 as a resistance factor to ABT-199. Inhibition of Mcl-1 by the selective Mcl-1 inhibitor AZD5991 or the CDK9 inhibitor AZD4573, which down-regulates short-lived proteins such as Mcl-1, induced apoptosis and showed strong synergy when combined with ABT-199 in AML cell lines, primary AML blasts, and stem/progenitor cells from patients. Importantly, combinations of AZD5991 or AZD4573 with ABT-199 synergistically induced apoptosis in OCI-AML3 and Mcl-1 OE cells intrinsically resistant to ABT-199 and in AML cell lines and primary patient cells with acquired resistance to ABT-199.

Although OE/KD Mcl-1 in AML cells did not show obvious alterations in baseline cell viability, NSGS mice harboring Mcl-1 OE/KD OCI-AML3 cells survived significantly shorter/longer than those transplanted with control cells, supporting additional, non-apoptogenic functions of Mcl-1 in AML. We observed that genetic modulation of Mcl-1 alters cellular mitochondrial respiration and ROS levels. AML cells with Mcl-1 OE/KD increased/decreased O2 consumption and mitochondrial ATP and ROS generation. Consistent with this finding, inhibition of Mcl-1 by AZD5991 or AZD4573 decreased O2 consumption and ATP generation in AML cells and also in MV4-11 cells with acquired ABT-199 resistance. Mass spectrometry-based stable isotope tracing experiments using 1,2-13C-glucose showed that both genetic and pharmacological inhibition of Mcl-1 decreased flux of glucose carbon through glycolysis, the TCA cycle, and the pentose phosphate pathway, suggesting a role for Mcl-1 in cellular respiration and redox metabolism.

To further assess the efficacy of combined Mcl-1 and Bcl-2 inhibition in primary AML cells resistant to ABT-199, we developed a PDX model using cells from an AML patient who initially responded to ABT-199/demethylating agent and then relapsed. NSGS mice engrafted with these PDX cells were treated with ABT-199 (50 mg/kg, oval gavage qd), AZD5991 (60 mg/kg, i.v. weekly), AZD4573 (15 mg/kg, i.p. bid with 2 h interval for two consequent days/week), ABT-199+AZD5991, or ABT-199+AZD4573 for 6 wks. Flow cytometric analysis of circulating human CD45+ cells on day 18 of therapy showed that each agent significantly decreased leukemia burden and that the combinations were significantly more effective (P<0.01) than each single agent. CyTOF analysis of BM cells (day 25) showed that both combinations markedly reduced (P<0.001) human CD45+ cells and, more importantly, human CD34+CD38+/CD38- and CD34+CD38+/CD38-CD123+ cells. Those combination treatments also decreased Mcl-1, Bcl-2, b-catenin, c-Myc, and FAK protein expression in CD34+CD38-CD123+ cells. Interestingly, AZD5991, AZD4573, or their combinations with ABT-199 greatly decreased CXCR4 in all cell populations. Ultimately, each single agent only marginally prolonged survival, whereas ABT-199+AZD4573 and even more so ABT-199+AZD5991 markedly improved survival in this highly ABT-199 resistant PDX model (Fig).

Conclusion: we demonstrate that Mcl-1 has metabolic functions in AML and that inhibition of Mcl-1 enhances ABT-199 apoptogenic activity and overcomes intrinsic and acquired ABT-199 resistance in vitro and in vivo in a PDX murine model of AML, suggesting that inhibition of Mcl-1 improves the efficacy of ABT-199, and overcomes established resistance to Bcl-2 inhibition. Suppressing metabolic activity and CXCR4 inhibition may also contribute to the efficacy of this combination against AML stem cells in the BM microenvironment.

Disclosures: Carter: AstraZeneca: Research Funding; novartis: Research Funding. Lorenzi: Erytech Pharma: Consultancy; NIH: Patents & Royalties. Cidado: AstraZeneca: Employment, Equity Ownership. Drew: AstraZeneca: Employment. Andreeff: AstraZeneca: Research Funding.

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