ABT-737 induces apoptosis in mantle cell lymphoma cells with a Bcl-2high/Mcl-1low profile and synergizes with other antineoplastic agents

Cyrille Touzeau, Christelle Dousset, Linda Bodet, Patricia Gomez-Bougie, Stéphanie Bonnaud, Anne Moreau, Philippe Moreau, Catherine Pellat-Deceunynck, Martine Amiot, Steven Le Gouill
Clinical Cancer Research 2011 September 15, 17 (18): 5973-81

PURPOSE: Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is considered to be incurable. ABT-737 is a BH3 mimetic that targets Bcl-2, which is overexpressed in MCL and implicated in drug resistance. The present work investigated the antitumor effect of ABT-737.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Six MCL cell lines and primary MCL cells (n = 13) were used. Sensitivity to ABT-737 was assessed, and expression levels of Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 were analyzed. Finally, ABT-737 was combined with other cytotoxic agents to promote tailored therapy.

RESULTS: MINO and GRANTA-519 cell lines were highly sensitive to ABT-737 [the median lethal dose (LD₅₀) = 20 and 80 nmol/L, respectively], whereas other cell lines were resistant. In primary MCL cells, 46% of patients' samples were sensitive to ABT-737. The analysis of protein expression levels revealed that both sensitive cell lines and primary MCL cells could be characterized by a Bcl-2(high)/Mcl-1(low) profile, whereas resistant MCL cells contained high levels of Mcl-1. ABT-737 induced a rapid disruption of both Bcl-2/Bax and Bcl-2/Bik complexes. In addition, silencing of Mcl-1 by siRNA sensitized MCL cell lines to ABT-737. Similarly, flavopiridol, which induces Mcl-1 downregulation, in combination with ABT-737 led to a synergistic anti-MCL effect in ABT-737-resistant cell lines. This synergy was also observed when ABT-737 was combined with either bortezomib or cytarabine.

CONCLUSIONS: The present work shows that ABT-737 induces strong apoptosis in MCL cells expressing a Bcl-2(high)/Mcl-1(low) profile. In ABT-737-resistant MCL cells, downregulation of Mcl-1 overcomes Mcl-1-induced resistance and synergizes ABT-737 effects. Our results strongly support the use of ABT-737 according to the Bcl-2/Mcl-1 tumor cell profiles in the treatment of MCL.

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