The triterpenoid CDDO induces apoptosis in refractory CLL B cells

Irene M Pedersen, Shinichi Kitada, Aaron Schimmer, Youngsoo Kim, Juan M Zapata, Lula Charboneau, Laura Rassenti, Michael Andreeff, Frank Bennett, Michael B Sporn, Lance D Liotta, Thomas J Kipps, John C Reed
Blood 2002 October 15, 100 (8): 2965-72
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells develop chemo-resistance over time. Most anticancer agents function through induction of apoptosis, and therefore resistance against these agents is likely to be caused by selection for CLL cells with defects in the particular apoptosis pathway that is triggered by these drugs. Anticancer agents that function through alternative apoptotic pathways might therefore be useful in treating chemo-resistant CLL. Triterpenoids represent a class of naturally occurring and synthetic compounds with demonstrated antitumor activity. We examined the effects of CDDO (triterpenoid 2-cyano-3,12-dioxoolean-1,9-dien-28-oic acid) on CLL B cells in vitro. CDDO induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner in all (n = 30) CLL samples tested, including previously untreated and chemo-resistant CLL specimens. CDDO induced rapid proteolytic processing of caspase-8, but not caspase-9, in CLL B cells, suggesting activation of a mitochondria-independent pathway. CDDO-induced apoptosis of CLL B cells was blocked by cytokine response modifier A (CrmA), a suppressor of caspase-8, but not by X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein-baculovirus IAP repeat-3 (XIAP-BIR3), a fragment of XIAP, which selectively inhibits caspase-9. Examination of CDDO effects on expression of several apoptosis-relevant genes demonstrated significant reductions in the levels of caspase-8 homolog Fas-ligand interleukin-1-converting enzyme (FLICE)-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), an endogenous antagonist of caspase-8. However, reductions of FLIP achieved by FLIP antisense oligonucleotides were insufficient for triggering apoptosis, indicating that CDDO has other targets in CLL B cells besides FLIP. These data suggest that the synthetic triterpenoid CDDO should be further explored as a possible therapeutic agent for treatment of chemo-resistant CLL.

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