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Genetic biomarkers predict response to dual BCL-2 and MCL-1 targeting in acute myeloid leukaemia cells

Grundy, Martin; Balakrishnan, Sahana; Fox, Matthew; Seedhouse, Claire; Russell, Nigel


Martin Grundy

Sahana Balakrishnan

Matthew Fox

Nigel Russell


Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cells often up-regulate pro-survival members of the BCL-2 protein family, such as BCL-2 and MCL-1, to avoid apoptosis. Venetoclax (ABT-199) targets BCL-2 and has shown promising efficacy in AML but over-expression of MCL-1 can cause resistance. A co-operative approach, targeting both BCL-2 and MCL-1 may therefore prove beneficial. This study investigated the potential synergistic relationship between Venetoclax and the MCL-1 inhibitor S63845 in AML cells. We treated MV4-11 cells and primary AML samples for 4 hours with Venetoclax, S63845 or the combination. We used a short-term flow cytometric technique to assess synergy using cytochrome C release as a read out of response. The combination of Venetoclax and S63845 produced a synergistic apoptotic response in MV4-11 cells and primary samples, including the leukaemia re-populating leukaemic stem cell (LSC) population, in 92% of the samples. Known molecular biomarkers of response to BCL-2 and MCL-1 targeting agents were corroborated, and augmented, with the short-term functional assay. The assay also predicted potential biomarkers of response to the combination of BCL-2 and MCL-1 targeting agents. Primary samples with an IDH2_140 mutation were more sensitive to Venetoclax as a single agent whereas samples with a FLT3-ITD mutation were more resistant. This resistance could be reversed when combined with S63845. All FLT3-ITD and NPM1 mutated samples were sensitive to the combination of drugs.

We report that co-operatively targeting BCL-2 and MCL-1 may be beneficial in AML and a short-term in vitro assay can identify patients who might best respond to this combination.


Grundy, M., Balakrishnan, S., Fox, M., Seedhouse, C., & Russell, N. (2018). Genetic biomarkers predict response to dual BCL-2 and MCL-1 targeting in acute myeloid leukaemia cells. Oncotarget, 9,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 20, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 24, 2018
Publication Date Dec 28, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 11, 2019
Journal Oncotarget
Electronic ISSN 1949-2553
Publisher Impact Journals
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 102
Keywords Oncology
Public URL
Publisher URL[]=26540&path[]=82570