Targeting Wnt/β-catenin and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Cecilia Evangelisti, Francesca Chiarini, Alessandra Cappellini, Francesca Paganelli, Milena Fini, Spartaco Santi, Alberto M Martelli, Luca M Neri, Camilla Evangelisti
Journal of Cellular Physiology 2020 January 6
T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematological disorder that results from the clonal transformation of T-cell precursors. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) and canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways play a crucial role in T-cell development and in self-renewal of healthy and leukemic stem cells. Notably, β-catenin is a transcriptional regulator of several genes involved in cancer cell proliferation and survival. In this way, aberrations of components belonging to the aforementioned networks contribute to T-ALL pathogenesis. For this reason, inhibition of both pathways could represent an innovative strategy in this hematological malignancy. Here, we show that combined targeting of Wnt/β-catenin pathway through ICG-001, a CBP/β-catenin transcription inhibitor, and of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR axis through ZSTK-474, a PI3K inhibitor, downregulated proliferation, survival, and clonogenic activity of T-ALL cells. ICG-001 and ZSTK-474 displayed cytotoxic effects, and, when combined together, induced a significant increase in apoptotic cells. This induction of apoptosis was associated with the downregulation of Wnt/β-catenin and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways. All these findings were confirmed under hypoxic conditions that mimic the bone marrow niche where leukemic stem cells are believed to reside. Taken together, our findings highlight potentially promising treatment consisting of cotargeting Wnt/β-catenin and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways in T-ALL settings.

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