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CHARACTERISATION OF BH3-MIMETIC-DRUG RESISTANTACUTE MYELOID LEUKAEMIACELL LINES TO IDENTIFY NOVEL DRUG COMBINATIONS FOR TARGETED CANCER THERAPY

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Title: CHARACTERISATION OF BH3-MIMETIC-DRUG RESISTANTACUTE MYELOID LEUKAEMIACELL LINES TO IDENTIFY NOVEL DRUG COMBINATIONS FOR TARGETED CANCER THERAPY
Author(s): Olgac, Ezgi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences
Specialisation: Cell and Developmental Biology
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Abstract:
Background– The BCL-2 protein family members are major regulators of apoptosis, and the anti-apoptotic (pro-survival) members of the family is commonly targeted with BH3 mimetic drugs in haematological cancers. However, these treatments have not been very impactful when administered as single agents and they have long been investigated for combination therapy with other agents. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is one of the difficult-to-cure haematological malignancies. A recently approved therapy for AML consists of the combinatorial administration of venetoclax (a selective BCL-2 inhibitor) and a DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitor such as azacitidine or decitabine. Although this novel therapy has shown promising clinical results, the majority of the patients still relapse under this treatment. These relapsed patients typically become highly resistant to treatment and have poor prognosis, emphasising the need for new effective drug combinations. Apart from BCL-2, other family members like BCL-xL and MCL1 are also common targets of BH3-mimetic drugs. This project thus aims to understand and characterise the resistance against BH3-mimetics and investigate new therapeutic approaches to overcome the challenges of resistance. Aims– This study aims (i) to characterise BH3-resistant AML cell lines for uncovering the mechanisms of drug resistance, and (ii) to identify possible combination treatment options for overcoming drug-resistance. Methods– Viability assays with Cell Titer Glo® (CTG) and Drug Sensitivity and Resistance Testing (DSRT). The long-term effectiveness of venetoclax, azacitidine and talazoparib (a PARP inhibitor) as single agents, double combinations and triple combination were investigated with Time-to-Progression (TTP) assay. For the resistant cell line models, underlying resistance mechanisms were assessed by checking protein expression of pro- and/or anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family members with western blot (WB). Real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and WB were carried out for transcriptional and translational expression analyses of certain DNA damage-associated genes in PARP inhibitor-resistant cell lines. Results– Drug screening with DSRT has revealed promising results for two combination treatments of a BCL-xL inhibitor (A-1331852) (i) with an Aurora kinase A inhibitor (alisertib) and (ii) with an MCL1 inhibitor (S63845) for BCL-xL inhibitor-resistant cells. WB analyses of BCL-2 family members showed translational upregulation of un-inhibited members of the anti-apoptotic proteins in BH3-mimetic-resistant cell lines. A venetoclax-resistant AML cell line showed increased levels of the DNA damage marker P-γ-H2Ax upon treatments containing venetoclax, as well as increased levels of cleaved-PARP1, indicating induction of apoptosis. RT-qPCR analyses revealed increased mRNA expression of PARP1 in two resistant cell lines, whereas no significant expression changes in other DNA repair mechanism genes on the transcriptional level. Conclusions– In BH3-mimetic-resistant AML cell lines, apoptosis is avoided through translational upregulation of un-inhibited anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family, and this resistance can be countered by combination treatment for additional inhibition of the compensatory anti-apoptotic proteins. Venetoclax is still effective on cells resistant to it, by inducing DNA damage and sensitising these cells against inhibitors of the members of DNA repair pathway. The transcriptional upregulation of PARP1 and the increase in its auto-catalytic activity suggests the DNA damage-inducing effects of the triple combination treatment [Ven + Aza + Tal].
Keyword(s): Cancer AML drug resistance personalised medicine


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