Session: 605. Molecular Pharmacology, Drug Resistance—Lymphoid and Other Diseases: Molecular Mechanisms in Leukemic Drug Resistance
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Biological, Diseases, Leukemia, CLL, Therapies, Lymphoid Malignancies
Over the past decade, significant improvement in understanding the pathogenesis of CLL has highlighted the importance of active B cell receptor (BCR) signaling. This has revealed promising targeted treatment options, including the small molecule inhibitors targeting the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway. Idelalisib and Duvelisib are under clinical investigation for CLL treatment, however, treatment-related toxicities are limiting their application and none of these approaches are curative, highlighting the importance of functional anti-tumor immune responses in CLL for prolonged treatment efficacy.
Here, we are testing a novel approach that aims to selectively target CLL B cells and simultaneously restore an appropriate immune cell function. The phosphatase SH2-domain-containing inositol 5ʹ-phosphatase 1 (SHIP1) serves as negative feedback molecule and downregulates PI3K signaling in B cells by dephosphorylating the 5`phosphate of Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate. We hypothesize that CLL cells rely on such negative regulators for optimal survival and can only tolerate a maximum signaling level. We are therefore testing whether SHIP1 inhibition induces hypersignaling and thereby CLL cell death. Furthermore, we are investigating whether SHIP1 inhibition simultanously stimulates immune responses, as it has been shown to induce expansion of murine hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cell compartments (Brooks et al., Stem cells 2014). 3α-Aminocholestane (3AC) is a small molecule inhibitor of SHIP1 and can be used for pharmacological inhibition.
First, we investigated the expression and phosphorylation levels of SHIP1 in CLL. We found SHIP1 to be expressed at various levels in CLL peripheral blood and strongly phosphorylated compared to age-matched healthy donors. Besides, SHIP1 transcription is upregulated in lymph nodes as compared to peripheral blood, which is in line with the assumption of increased BCR signaling in secondary lymphoid organs. We then set out to investigate the consequences of SHIP1 phosphatase inhibition. Similarly, to recent findings in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Chen et al., Nature 2015), pharmacological inhibition of SHIP1 lead to rapid cell death of CLL cells. We further investigated the mode of cell death and observed specific features of apoptosis, namely caspase 3/7 activation and phosphatidylserine exposure on the outer cell membrane. This has been tested on primary CLL patient samples and T cell leukemia/lymphoma 1 (TCL1)-driven murine CLL cells and was not observed or significantly less pronounced in other lymphoma cell lines or healthy primary B cells. To confirm the specificity of the observed effects, we genetically activated AKT with a GFP reporter in the TCL1-driven mouse model in vivo and in vitro. By tracking GFP-expressing CLL cells, we observed an initial expansion followed by rapid cell death in vitro. When we induced AKT activation in vivo, GFP+ CLL cells were not detectable in the peripheral blood, total CLL count declined upon induction and we found decreased tumor burden in the secondary lymphoid organs, particularly in the lymph nodes. In addition to the direct effects on CLL cells, we sought to investigate the impact of SHIP1 inhibition on other immune cell functions. We observed that SHIP1 inhibition lowers the activity threshold of T cells: When we stimulated a reporter cell line with suboptimal doses of anti-CD3, 3AC treatment significantly enhanced the response rate.
Therefore, we propose SHIP1 as a novel interesting target in CLL. In contrast to kinase inhibition and downregulation of the BCR signaling strength, phosphatase inhibition and BCR signaling overaction provides an attractive new treatment strategy for elimination of malignant CLL cells and stimulation of immune responses.
Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
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