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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Cancer Research, Volume 78, Issue 4, February 2018, Pages 1097-1109.

The published version is available at Copyright © American Association for Cancer Research


Philadelphia chromosome–positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Phþ ALL) is currently treated with BCR-ABL1 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) in combination with chemotherapy. However, most patients develop resistance to TKI through BCR-ABL1–dependent and –independent mechanisms. Newly developed TKI can target Phþ ALL cells with BCR-ABL1–dependent resistance; however, overcoming BCR-ABL1–independent mechanisms of resistance remains challenging because transcription factors, which are difficult to inhibit, are often involved. We show here that (i) the growth of Phþ ALL cell lines and primary cells is highly dependent on MYB-mediated transcriptional upregulation of CDK6, cyclin D3, and BCL2, and (ii) restoring their expression in MYB-silenced Phþ ALL cells rescues their impaired proliferation and survival. Levels of MYB and CDK6 were highly correlated in adult Phþ ALL (P ¼ 0.00008). Moreover, Phþ ALL cells exhibited a specific requirement for CDK6 but not CDK4 expression, most likely because, in these cells, CDK6 was predominantly localized in the nucleus, whereas CDK4 was almost exclusively cytoplasmic. Consistent with their essential role in Phþ ALL, pharmacologic inhibition of CDK6 and BCL2 markedly suppressed proliferation, colony formation, and survival of Phþ ALL cells ex vivo and in mice. In summary, these findings provide a proof-of-principle, rational strategy to target the MYB "addiction" of Phþ ALL. © 2017 American Association for Cancer Research.

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