An intriguing aspect of the clinical activity of FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 inhibitors (FLT3 TKIs) is their apparent higher activity against peripheral blasts from FLT3/internal tandem duplication (ITD) acute myeloid leukemia than marrow disease in the same patients. Accordingly, studies showed that the bone marrow microenvironment plays a role in FLT3 TKI resistance, although the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We recently identified a previously undescribed mechanism by which the bone marrow microenvironment can contribute to drug resistance: expression of cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYPs). In fact, bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) expressed most CYPs, including CYP3A4. Because hepatic CYP3A4 plays a role in the inactivation of several FLT3 TKIs, we explored the potential role of CYP3A4 in bone marrow microenvironment–mediated FLT3 TKI resistance. We found that CYP3A4 plays a major role in BMSC-mediated inhibition in the activity of 3 different FLT3 TKIs (sorafenib, quizartinib, and gilteritinib) against FLT3/ITD acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Furthermore, clarithromycin, a clinically active CYP3A4 inhibitor, significantly reversed the protective effects of BMSCs. We show, for the first time, that bone marrow stromal CYP3A4 contributes to FLT3 TKI resistance in the bone marrow. These results suggest that combining FLT3 TKIs with CYP3A4 inhibitors could be a promising strategy toward improving the activity of FLT3 TKIs.
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