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1450 Idasanutlin and Navitoclax Induce a Synergistic p53-Dependent Apoptotic Cell Death in T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 605. Molecular Pharmacology and Drug Resistance: Lymphoid Neoplasms: Poster I
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Lymphoid Leukemias, ALL, apoptosis, Research, Non-Biological therapies, Translational Research, Chemotherapy, Combination therapy, Diseases, Therapies, Lymphoid Malignancies, Human
Saturday, December 9, 2023, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM

Kimberly Johansson, BA1,2, Iryna V Dmytrenko, PhD2*, Megan Gauthier, MD2*, Feng Gao, MD, PhD2* and Daniel C. Link, MD2

1Medical Scientist Training Program, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
2Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematologic malignancy with a five-year event-free survival rate that declines with age. Existing therapies for T-ALL, particularly in adults, are intensive and poorly tolerated, with high rates of of treatment-related morbidity and mortality and a high frequency of relapse. In T-ALL, activating Notch pathway mutations are common and thought to induce transformation in part through activation of c-Myc. Typically, increased expression of c-Myc induces apoptosis through the p19(ARF)-Mdm2-p53 tumor suppressor pathway. Unsurprisingly, over 70% of T-ALL cases have inactivating mutations in CDKN2A (p19Arf). However, greater than 95% of primary and 75% of relapsed T-ALL cases maintain wild type p53.

We hypothesized that MDM2 inhibition would lead to T-ALL cell apoptosis by bypassing the loss of ARF. We reported in a previous ASH abstract initial studies evaluating the MDM2 inhibitor idasanutlin in the context of T-ALL. We observed that T-ALL patient-derived xenograft (PDX) lines treated in vitro showed modest induction of apoptosis. Additionally, we observed upregulation of pro-apoptotic p53 target genes including Bax and Puma1, leading us to hypothesize that inhibition of pro-survival BH3 domain proteins Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, and Bcl-W by navitoclax (ABT-263) would synergize to enhance apoptosis. In vitro treatment of a panel of PDX lines with combined therapy led to robust cell death with strong induction of pro-apoptotic p53 targets in all lines. In vivo, we assessed the response of four T-ALL xenografts to dual treatment. All showed a significant reduction of tumor burden compared to the most efficacious single therapy and evidence of synergy in all tested lines, as evaluated by a modified Bliss Independence test analyzing average daily change in tumor burden. Overall survival was significantly increased in the combination treatment group.

We report here further mechanistic characterization of idasanutlin and navitoclax dual therapy in the context of T-ALL, as well as several therapeutically-oriented comparisons. While our initial studies used navitoclax due to prior work showing that T-ALL frequently expresses and is dependent on Bcl-xL (Chonghaile et al., 2014), navitoclax can cause a dose-limiting thrombocytopenia due to on-target Bcl-xL inhibition in circulating platelets. Therefore, we treated our PDX panel with a dose matrix of idasanutlin with navitoclax or venetoclax, which lacks Bcl-xL activity. We observed that the navitoclax combination showed strong evidence of synergic activity, as measured by zero interaction potency (ZIP) score (Yadav et al., 2015). Idasanutlin and navitoclax combination therapy had global ZIP scores suggesting an additive effect in 1 line and strongly synergic activity in the remaining 4 lines. Venetoclax showed an additive benefit in 3 lines, but was only synergistic in 1 of 5 lines tested. These results underscore the importance of Bcl-xL targeting in T-ALL and support further investigation of whether combination treatment with idasanutlin permits a more tolerable navitoclax dosing regimen. We also evaluated ruxolitinib in combination with idasanutlin, as recent work has shown overlapping responses to inhibitors of Jak/Stat or Bcl-2 (Yuan et al. 2022). While we observed moderate activity of ruxolitinib monotherapy, combination with idasanutlin was additive against one and synergistic in none of the tested lines.

To confirm the p53-dependence of idasanutlin dual therapy, we engineered p53 knockout T-ALL cell lines and observed strong induction of apoptosis and p53 target genes in wildtype cells, which was entirely abrogated in p53 LOF lines. Additionally, we performed RNA-seq on PDX cells treated with single or dual therapy to mechanistically characterize transcriptional responses to the drug combination. We observed minimal changes in navitoclax-only treated cells at the RNA level, consistent with its on-target post-transcriptional regulation of apoptotic induction. Idasanutlin and combination therapy samples clustered closely in PCA analysis, with p53 response a strongly-induced pathway, as expected. Our data suggest that the rational combination of idasanutlin and navitoclax is highly active against T-ALL, with greater synergic opportunity compared to other available idasanutlin combination treatments, through induction of a p53-dependent apoptotic cell death.

Disclosures: Link: Roche: Other: Roche provided Idasanutlin free of charge. No compensation was provided, and Roche was not involved in design, conduction, or analysis of experiments..

*signifies non-member of ASH