FLT3 tyrosine kinase inhibitors synergize with BCL-2 inhibition to eliminate FLT3/ITD acute leukemia cells through BIM activation

Ruiqi Zhu, Li Li, Bao Nguyen, Jaesung Seo, Min Wu, Tessa Seale, Mark Levis, Amy Duffield, Yu Hu, Donald Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting FLT3 have shown activity but when used alone have achieved limited success in clinical trials, suggesting the need for combination with other drugs. We investigated the combination of FLT3 TKIs (Gilteritinib or Sorafenib), with Venetoclax, a BCL-2 selective inhibitor (BCL-2i), on FLT3/ITD leukemia cells. The combination of a FLT3 TKI and a BCL-2i synergistically reduced cell proliferation and enhanced apoptosis/cell death in FLT3/ITD cell lines and primary AML samples. Venetoclax also re-sensitized FLT3 TKI-resistant cells to Gilteritinib or Sorafenib treatment, mediated through MAPK pathway inhibition. Gilteritinib treatment alone dissociated BIM from MCL-1 but increased the binding of BIM to BCL-2. Venetoclax treatment enhanced the binding of BIM to MCL-1 but dissociated BIM from BCL-2. Treatment with the drugs together resulted in dissociation of BIM from both BCL-2 and MCL-1, with an increased binding of BIM to the cell death mediator BAX, leading to increased apoptosis. These findings suggest that Venetoclax mitigates the unintended pro-survival effects of FLT3 TKI mainly through the dissociation of BIM and BCL-2 and also decreased BIM expression. This study provides evidence that the addition of BCL-2i enhances the effect of FLT3 TKI therapy in FLT3/ITD AML treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
JournalSignal Transduction and Targeted Therapy
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research

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