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Disruption of Wnt/β-Catenin Exerts Antileukemia Activity and Synergizes with FLT3 Inhibition in FLT3-Mutant Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Jiang, X., Mak, P.Y., Mu, H. et al.

Purpose:
Wnt/β-catenin signaling is required for leukemic stem cell function. FLT3 mutations are frequently observed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Anomalous FLT3 signaling increases β-catenin nuclear localization and transcriptional activity. FLT3 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) are used clinically to treat FLT3-mutated AML patients, but with limited efficacy. We investigated the antileukemia activity of combined Wnt/β-catenin and FLT3 inhibition in FLT3-mutant AML.

Experimental Design:
Wnt/β-catenin signaling was inhibited by the β-catenin/CBP antagonist C-82/PRI-724 or siRNAs, and FLT3 signaling by sorafenib or quizartinib. Treatments on apoptosis, cell growth, and cell signaling were assessed in cell lines, patient samples, and in vivo in immunodeficient mice by flow cytometry, Western blot, RT-PCR, and CyTOF.

Results:
We found significantly higher β-catenin expression in cytogenetically unfavorable and relapsed AML patient samples and in the bone marrow-resident leukemic cells compared with circulating blasts. Disrupting Wnt/β-catenin signaling suppressed AML cell growth, induced apoptosis, abrogated stromal protection, and synergized with TKIs in FLT3-mutated AML cells and stem/progenitor cells in vitro The aforementioned combinatorial treatment improved survival of AML-xenografted mice in two in vivo models and impaired leukemia cell engraftment. Mechanistically, the combined inhibition of Wnt/β-catenin and FLT3 cooperatively decreased nuclear β-catenin and the levels of c-Myc and other Wnt/β-catenin and FLT3 signaling proteins. Importantly, β-catenin inhibition abrogated the microenvironmental protection afforded the leukemic stem/progenitor cells.

Conclusions:
Disrupting Wnt/β-catenin signaling exerts potent activities against AML stem/progenitor cells and synergizes with FLT3 inhibition in FLT3-mutant AML. These findings provide a rationale for clinical development of this strategy for treating FLT3-mutated AML patients.

Citation

Jiang, X., Mak, P.Y., Mu, H. et al. "Disruption of Wnt/β-Catenin Exerts Antileukemia Activity and Synergizes with FLT3 Inhibition in FLT3-Mutant Acute Myeloid Leukemia" Clinical Cancer Research (2018): 2,417–29