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2230 BRD4 Inhibitors Enhance the Anti-Tumor Activity of Targeted Therapy in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 642. CLL: Therapy, excluding Transplantation: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Biological, therapy sequence, Therapies, Combinations, enzyme inhibitors, Clinically relevant
Sunday, December 6, 2020, 7:00 AM-3:30 PM

Suchitra Sundaram, MD1*, Cory Mavis, MSc1,2*, Juan J Gu, PhD1,2*, Pallawi Torka, MD1* and Francisco J. Hernandez-Ilizaliturri, MD2,3

1Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY
2Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY
3Department of Medicine, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Background: The development of drugs targeting BTK and BCL2 has dramatically improved the therapeutic landscape in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). However, resistance to these agents has been reported due to non-recurrent changes in oncogenic pathways and gene expression signatures. The bromodomain and extra terminal (BET) family proteins (BRD2, BRD3, BRD4 and BRDT) are epigenetic reader proteins that recognize acetylated lysine residues in histones. They play a critical role in mediating gene transcription and have been considered as highly promising targets in several diseases including cancer. Of these, the BRD4 protein is highly enriched in super enhancers and regulates transcription of relevant oncogenes such as MYC, CDK genes, cyclin-D1, BCL2 and MCL-1. BRD4 inhibitors (BRD4i) block the transcription of these key oncogenes through the displacement of BRDs and other epigenetic modifiers from chromatin. In this study, we investigated the preclinical activity of two BRD4i, AZD5153 and PLX51107, and their cooperative role with the BCL2 inhibitor venetoclax and BTK inhibitor ibrutinib in CLL.

Methods: Primary tumor cells were isolated from 36 CLL patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated via histopaque-1077 (Sigma-Aldrich, St Louis MO) from peripheral blood apheresis samples from consenting adults under RPCCC protocol CIC-01-16. B-cells were then isolated from enriched lymphocytes by MACS separation using a human B-cell Isolation Kit II. CLL cells were seeded at 3 x106/mL in a 384 well tissue culture plates and exposed to different doses of AZD5153 (1-20uM) or PLX51107 (1-20uM) as a single agent or in combination with venetoclax (1-100nM) or ibrutinib (50-1000nM) for 48 and 72hrs (Selleck Chemicals, Houston TX). Cell viability was assessed using Cell Titer-glo (Promega, Madison WI) with all data being normalized to untreated controls. Synergy was calculated using Calcusyn (Cambridge, UK) software to determine Coefficient of Synergy (CI) values. In addition, CLL cells were plated in 6 well plates and exposed to AZD5153 or PLX51107 alone or in combination with either venetoclax or ibrutinib for 24 hrs. Induction of apoptosis and changes in B-cell receptor signaling, BCL2 and NF-kB pathway related proteins were evaluated by flow cytometry or Western blotting respectively.

Results: The study included 33 treatment naïve and 3 relapsed/refractory CLL patients. Deletion 11q was detected in 6 patients and del 17p was seen in 1 patient. Both AZD5153 and PLX51107 displayed time and dose dependent induction of apoptosis of CLL cells. Activity was observed in both treatment naïve and relapsed/refractory samples. Moreover, activity was observed in del 17p or ATM deletion samples. Synergistic activity was observed between BRD4is and venetoclax. PLX51107 exhibited synergy with venetoclax in 83% of the samples tested. Similarly, AZD5153 exhibited synergistic effects when combined with venetoclax in 61% of the samples. To a lesser degree, BRD4is exhibited synergistic activity when combined with ibrutinib, (44% with PLX51107 and 39% with AZD5153). Induction of apoptosis was observed in CLL cells exposed to either BRD4i. Morevoer, an increase in the percentage of apoptosis was observed when BRD4i was combined with venetoclax. Western blotting showed a accumulation of p21, reduced levels of C-MYC, as well as modulation of BCL-2 family member proteins such as BCL2, MCL-1 following BRD4i ex vivo exposure.

Conclusions: Our data indicate that BRD4 inhibition results in apoptosis of primary tumor cells isolated from patients with various subtypes of CLL. PLX51107 and AZD5153 exhibit synergistic effects when combined with venetoclax and to a lesser degree with ibrutinib. Modulation of BCL-2 family members following BRD4 inibition could play a role in the synergistic activity observed in our studies. A better understanding of the key signaling pathways involved in proliferation and survival of CLL cells impacted by BRD4i in combination with venetoclax and ibrutinib would provide a proof-of-concept rationale for studies validating BRD4i as epigenetic approach to target BCR signaling in CLL.

Disclosures: Hernandez-Ilizaliturri: Karyopharm: Consultancy; Celgene: Consultancy; Takeda: Consultancy; Amgen: Consultancy; Gilead: Consultancy; Pharmacyclics: Consultancy; Seattle Genetics: Consultancy; Astra Zeneca: Consultancy; Epyzome: Consultancy.

*signifies non-member of ASH