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Repurposing anthelmintic agents to eradicate resistant leukemia


Abstract

Despite rapid progress in genomic profiling in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), identification of actionable targets and prediction of response to drugs remains challenging. To identify specific vulnerabilities in ALL, we performed a drug screen using primary human ALL samples cultured in a model of the bone marrow microenvironment combined with high content image analysis. Among the 2487 FDA-approved compounds tested, anthelmintic agents of the class of macrocyclic lactones exhibited potent anti-leukemia activity, similar to the already known anti-leukemia agents currently used in induction chemotherapy. Ex vivo validation in 55 primary ALL samples of both precursor B cell and T-ALL including refractory relapse cases confirmed strong anti-leukemia activity with IC$_{50}$ values in the low micromolar range. Anthelmintic agents increased intracellular chloride levels in primary leukemia cells, inducing mitochondrial outer membrane depolarization and cell death. Supporting the notion that simultaneously targeting cell death machineries at different angles may enhance the cell death response, combination of anthelmintic agents with the BCL-2 antagonist navitoclax or with the chemotherapeutic agent dexamethasone showed synergistic activity in primary ALL. These data reveal anti-leukemia activity of anthelmintic agents and support exploiting drug repurposing strategies to identify so far unrecognized anti-cancer agents with potential to eradicate even refractory leukemia.

Abstract

Despite rapid progress in genomic profiling in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), identification of actionable targets and prediction of response to drugs remains challenging. To identify specific vulnerabilities in ALL, we performed a drug screen using primary human ALL samples cultured in a model of the bone marrow microenvironment combined with high content image analysis. Among the 2487 FDA-approved compounds tested, anthelmintic agents of the class of macrocyclic lactones exhibited potent anti-leukemia activity, similar to the already known anti-leukemia agents currently used in induction chemotherapy. Ex vivo validation in 55 primary ALL samples of both precursor B cell and T-ALL including refractory relapse cases confirmed strong anti-leukemia activity with IC$_{50}$ values in the low micromolar range. Anthelmintic agents increased intracellular chloride levels in primary leukemia cells, inducing mitochondrial outer membrane depolarization and cell death. Supporting the notion that simultaneously targeting cell death machineries at different angles may enhance the cell death response, combination of anthelmintic agents with the BCL-2 antagonist navitoclax or with the chemotherapeutic agent dexamethasone showed synergistic activity in primary ALL. These data reveal anti-leukemia activity of anthelmintic agents and support exploiting drug repurposing strategies to identify so far unrecognized anti-cancer agents with potential to eradicate even refractory leukemia.

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Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Children's Hospital Zurich > Medical Clinic
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Hematology
Health Sciences > Oncology
Language:English
Date:26 June 2020
Deposited On:27 Jan 2021 08:56
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 16:29
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2044-5385
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41408-020-0339-9
PubMed ID:32591499

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