Session: 604. Molecular Pharmacology and Drug Resistance: Myeloid Neoplasms: Poster III
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Translational Research
Objectives: We assessed the synergistic anti-leukemia efficacy of concomitant Bcl2 and ERK1/2 inhibition in preclinical models of venetoclax resistance and in primary patient samples (n=8). Further, we investigated the role of ERK1/2/Drp1-dependent mitochondrial fission in mediating resistance to venetoclax through altered metabolism.
Results: ERK1/2 inhibition using Compound 27 (Heightman et al., J Med Chem. 2018) a close analog of ASTX029, which is currently under clinical investigation in solid tumors (NCT03520075), was highly synergistic with venetoclax at inducing apoptosis in AML cells. NRAS-mutant OCI-AML3 and THP1 cells, that are intrinsically resistant to venetoclax, were sensitized to venetoclax by ERK1/2 inhibition with a combination index (CI) of 0.008 (cell death ~90% for combination versus 20% with venetoclax alone). Synergy was also confirmed in OCI-AML2 cells with acquired resistance to venetoclax, resulting in 75% apoptosis versus 22% by venetoclax alone (CI=0.6). The combination was also effective in eliminating bulk and CD34+CD38- leukemia initiating cells (LICs) in primary AML samples (CI:0.03-0.23). Colony formation assay and single cell level CyTOF analysis using an NRAS-mutant PDX showed markedly impaired clonogenic potential (p=0.0002) and decreased expression of cMyc and CD44 in LICs in response to single agent ERK1/2 inhibition and combination treatment, indicating a potential impact on stemness.
Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) mitigation, Drp1-mediated mitochondrial fission and glycolysis are critical to maintain stemness in AML (Schimmer et al., Cell Stem Cell. 2018). As a result of ERK1/2 inhibition, pDrp1 (Ser616) levels decreased, and mitochondrial length (p<0.001) and mitochondrial ROS levels (p<0.01) were increased, suggesting impaired fission. In OCI-AML3 cells, combination treatment caused downregulation of Drp1 mRNA and decreased phosphorylation of Drp1 at Ser616. Rescue with overexpression of active phospho-mimetic form of Drp1 i.e. Drp1-Ser616Glu-Ser637Ala in OCI-AML3 cells resulted in decreased apoptosis and reversed the synergy between ERK1/2 and Bcl-2 inhibition when compared to wild type and phospho-null (Ser616Ala) Drp1 overexpression (p<0.001, Fig 1a). Of note, overexpression of Drp1-Ser616Glu-Ser637Ala phospho-mimetic led to decreased mitochondrial length (Fig 1b), suggesting enhanced fission with a distinct metabolic phenotype including reduced basal respiration, decreased maximal oxygen consumption rate (p<0.05) and ATP production (p<0.05), as well as reduced ROS production (p<0.01). Moreover, combination treatment failed to significantly induce ROS production in cells expressing the phospho-mimetic Drp1 as opposed to those expressing phospho-null or wildtype Drp1. Collectively, these results indicate that inhibition of ERK1/2/Drp1dependent mitochondrial fission and metabolic alterations may be a potential mechanism of synergistic tumor cell killing for the combination treatment.
Conclusion: ERK1/2 inhibition alters Drp1 dependent mitochondrial dynamics and metabolism, resulting in mitochondrial defects and overcoming resistance to venetoclax by causing apoptosis in venetoclax resistant AML cells. These data provide a strong rationale for the combination of ERK1/2 and Bcl-2 inhibitors in treatment of AML and warrant further investigation in the clinic.
Disclosures: Hindley: Astex Pharmaceuticals: Current Employment. Dao: Astex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.: Current Employment. Sims: Astex Pharmaceuticals: Current Employment. Andreeff: Chimerix: Current holder of stock options in a privately-held company; Oncolyze: Current holder of stock options in a privately-held company; German Research Council: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; NCI: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Cancer UK: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Medicxi: Consultancy; Glycomimetics: Consultancy; Aptose: Consultancy, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Senti Bio: Consultancy, Research Funding; Syndax: Consultancy, Research Funding; Brooklyn ITX: Research Funding; Pinot Bio: Research Funding; Oxford Biomedical UK: Research Funding; AstraZeneca: Research Funding; Breast Cancer Research Foundation: Research Funding; Daiichi-Sankyo Inc.: Consultancy, Research Funding; Kintor Pharmaceutical: Research Funding; CLL Foundation: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Reata: Current holder of stock options in a privately-held company. Borthakur: Catamaran Bio, Abbvie, PPD Development, Protagonist Therapeutics, Janssen: Consultancy; Pacylex, Novartis, Cytomx, Bio Ascend: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Astex Pharmaceuticals, Ryvu, PTC Therapeutics: Research Funding.
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