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Expression Profile of BCL-2, BCL-XL, and MCL-1 Predicts Pharmacological Response to the BCL-2 Selective Antagonist Venetoclax in Multiple Myeloma Models

Punnoose, E.A., Leverson, J.D., Peale, F. et al.

BCL-2 family proteins dictate survival of human multiple myeloma cells, making them attractive drug targets. Indeed, multiple myeloma cells are sensitive to antagonists that selectively target prosurvival proteins such as BCL-2/BCL-XL (ABT-737 and ABT-263/navitoclax) or BCL-2 only (ABT-199/GDC-0199/venetoclax). Resistance to these three drugs is mediated by expression of MCL-1. However, given the selectivity profile of venetoclax it is unclear whether coexpression of BCL-XL also affects antitumor responses to venetoclax in multiple myeloma. In multiple myeloma cell lines (n = 21), BCL-2 is expressed but sensitivity to venetoclax correlated with high BCL-2 and low BCL-XL or MCL-1 expression. Multiple myeloma cells that coexpress BCL-2 and BCL-XL were resistant to venetoclax but sensitive to a BCL-XL-selective inhibitor (A-1155463). Multiple myeloma xenograft models that coexpressed BCL-XL or MCL-1 with BCL-2 were also resistant to venetoclax. Resistance to venetoclax was mitigated by cotreatment with bortezomib in xenografts that coexpressed BCL-2 and MCL-1 due to upregulation of NOXA, a proapoptotic factor that neutralizes MCL-1. In contrast, xenografts that expressed BCL-XL, MCL-1, and BCL-2 were more sensitive to the combination of bortezomib with a BCL-XL selective inhibitor (A-1331852) but not with venetoclax cotreatment when compared with monotherapies. IHC of multiple myeloma patient bone marrow biopsies and aspirates (n = 95) revealed high levels of BCL-2 and BCL-XL in 62% and 43% of evaluable samples, respectively, while 34% were characterized as BCL-2(High)/BCL-XL (Low) In addition to MCL-1, our data suggest that BCL-XL may also be a potential resistance factor to venetoclax monotherapy and in combination with bortezomib. 

Citation

Punnoose, E.A., Leverson, J.D., Peale, F. et al. "Expression Profile of BCL-2, BCL-XL, and MCL-1 Predicts Pharmacological Response to the BCL-2 Selective Antagonist Venetoclax in Multiple Myeloma Models" Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (2016): 1,132–44