Ph+ ALL is a poor-prognosis leukemia subtype driven by the BCR-ABL1 oncogene, either the p190-or the p210-BCR/ABL isoform in a 70:30 ratio. Tyrosine Kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are the drugs of choice in the therapy of Ph+ ALL. In combination with standard chemotherapy, TKIs have markedly improved the outcome of Ph+ ALL, in particular if this treatment is followed by bone marrow transplantation. However, resistance to TKIs develops with high frequency, causing leukemia relapse that results in <5-year overall survival. Thus, new therapies are needed to address relapsed/TKI-resistant Ph+ ALL. We have shown that expression of cell cycle regulatory kinase CDK6, but not of the highly related CDK4 kinase, is required for the proliferation and survival of Ph+ ALL cells. Comparison of leukemia suppression induced by treatment with the clinically-approved dual CDK4/6 inhibitor palbociclib versus CDK6 silencing revealed that the latter treatment was markedly more effective, probably reflecting inhibition of CDK6 kinase-independent effects. Thus, we developed CDK4/6-targeted proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs) that preferentially degrade CDK6 over CDK4. One compound termed PROTAC YX-2-107, which degrades CDK6 by recruiting the Cereblon ubiquitin ligase, markedly suppressed leukemia burden in mice injected with de novo or TKI-resistant Ph+ ALL. The effect of PROTAC YX-2-107 was comparable or superior to that of palbociclib. The development of CDK6-selective PROTACs represents an effective strategy to exploit the “CDK6 dependence” of Ph+ ALL cells while sparing a high proportion of normal hematopoietic progenitors that depend on both CDK6 and CDK6 for their survival. In combination with other agents, CDK6-selective PROTACs may be valuable components of chemotherapy-free protocols for the therapy of Ph+ ALL and other CDK6-dependent hematological malignancies.
Recommended CitationPorazzi, Patrizia; De Dominici, Marco; Salvino, Joseph; and Calabretta, Bruno, "Targeting the cdk6 dependence of ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia" (2021). Department of Cancer Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 184.
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