Identification of volasertib-resistant mechanism and evaluation of combination effects with volasertib and other agents on acute myeloid leukemia.
ABSTRACT: Volasertib, a selective PLK1 inhibitor, was effective for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients in clinical trials. However, its efficacy was limited in mono-therapy, and a higher incidence of fatal events was revealed in the combination with low-dose cytarabine. Thus, optimization of combination therapy with volasertib and other agents is necessary for its clinical development, and the predictive factors for response or resistance to volasertib remain largely unknown. In this study, we investigated the resistance mechanism in volasertib-resistant cell lines and the combination effects with other agents, such as azacitidine (AZA), on AML cells. We identified that mutations in the ATP-binding domain of PLK1 and expression of MDR1 conferred resistance to volasertib. In the combination therapy, the effects of AZA differed among cells, but were prominent in the cells with higher GI50 values of volasertib in mono-therapy. Furthermore, we identified that the cells in G2/M phase were more sensitive to volasertib, and the PI3K/AKT pathway was up-regulated upon administration of volasertib. Combination therapies with the agents that caused cell cycle accumulation in G2/M phase or with PI3K inhibitor were highly potent against AML cells. Our findings provide strategies for further clinical development of volasertib and PLK inhibitors for AML.
Project description:Owing to their integral involvement in cell cycle regulation, the Polo-like kinase (Plk) family, particularly Plk1, has emerged as an attractive therapeutic target in oncology. In recent years, several Plk1 inhibitors have been developed, with some agents showing encouraging results in early-phase clinical trials. This review focuses on volasertib (BI 6727; an investigational agent), a potent and selective Plk inhibitor. Volasertib has shown promising activity in various cancer cell lines and xenograft models of human cancer. Trials performed to date suggest that volasertib has clinical efficacy in a range of malignancies, with the most promising results seen in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Encouragingly, recent phase II data have demonstrated that volasertib combined with low-dose cytarabine (LDAC) was associated with higher response rates and improved event-free survival than LDAC alone in patients with previously untreated AML. Based on these observations, and its presumably manageable safety profile, volasertib is currently in phase III development as a potential treatment for patients with AML who are ineligible for intensive remission induction therapy. Given that many patients with AML are of an older age and frail, this constitutes an area of major unmet need. In this review, we discuss the biologic rationale for Plk1 inhibitors in cancer, the clinical development of volasertib to date in solid tumors and AML, and the future identification of biomarkers that might predict response to volasertib and help determine the role of this agent in the clinic.
Project description:Despite the availability of hundreds of cancer drugs, there is insufficient data on the efficacy of these drugs on the extremely heterogeneous tumor cell populations of glioblastoma (GBM).The PKIS of 357 compounds was initially evaluated in 15 different GSC lines which then led to a more focused screening of the 21 most highly active compounds in 11 unique GSC lines using HTS screening for cell viability. We further validated the HTS result with the second-generation PLK1 inhibitor volasertib as a single agent and in combination with ionizing radiation (IR). In vitro studies showed that volasertib inhibited cell viability, and high levels of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL expression were highly correlated with volasertib resistance. Volasertib sensitized GSCs to radiation therapy by enhancing G2/M arrest and by inducing apoptosis. Colony-formation assay demonstrated that volasertib plus IR synergistically inhibited colony formation. In intracranial xenograft mouse models, the combination of volasertib and radiation significantly inhibited GSC tumor growth and prolonged median survival compared with radiation treatment alone due to inhibition of cell proliferation, enhancement of DNA damage, and induction of apoptosis.Our results reinforce the potential therapeutic efficacy of volasertib in combination with radiation for the treatment of GBM.We used high-throughput screening (HTS) to identify drugs, out of 357 compounds in the published Protein Kinase Inhibitor Set, with the greatest efficacy against a panel of glioma stem cells (GSCs), which are representative of the classic cancer genome atlas (TCGA) molecular subtypes.
Project description:Relapsed and metastatic hepatoblastoma represents an unmet clinical need with limited chemotherapy treatment options. In a chemical screen, we identified volasertib as an agent with in vitro activity, inhibiting hepatoblastoma cell growth while sparing normal hepatocytes. Volasertib targets PLK1 and prevents the progression of mitosis, resulting in eventual cell death. PLK1 is overexpressed in hepatoblastoma biopsies relative to normal liver tissue. As a potential therapeutic strategy, we tested the combination of volasertib and the relapse-related hepatoblastoma chemotherapeutic irinotecan. We found both in vitro and in vivo efficacy of this combination, which may merit further preclinical investigation and exploration for a clinical trial concept.
Project description:Patients diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia with complex karyotype (CK AML) have an adverse prognosis using current therapies, especially when accompanied by TP53 alterations. We hereby report the RNA-sequencing analysis of the 68 CK AML samples included in the Leucegene 415 patient cohort. We confirm the frequent occurrence of TP53 alterations in this subgroup and further characterize the allele expression profile and transcript alterations of this gene. We also document that the RAS pathway (N/KRAS, NF1, PTPN11, BRAF) is frequently altered in this disease. Targeted chemical interrogation of genetically characterized primary CK AML samples identifies polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) inhibitors as the most selective agents for this disease subgroup. TP53 status did not alter sensitivity to PLK1 inhibitors. Interestingly, CK AML specimens display a G2/M transcriptomic signature that includes higher expression levels of PLK1 and correlates with PLK1 inhibition sensitivity. Together, our results highlight vulnerability in CK AML. In line with these in vitro data, volasertib shows a strong anti-AML activity in xenotransplantation mouse models of human adverse AML. Considering that PLK1 inhibitors are currently being investigated clinically in AML and myelodysplastic syndromes, our results provide a new rationale for PLK1-directed therapy in patients with adverse cytogenetic AML.
Project description:Elderly and frail patients, diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and ineligible to undergo intensive treatment, have a dismal prognosis. The small molecule inhibitor volasertib induces a mitotic block via inhibition of polo-like kinase 1 and has shown remarkable anti-leukemic activity when combined with low-dose cytarabine. We have demonstrated that AML cells are highly vulnerable to cell death in mitosis yet manage to escape a mitotic block through mitotic slippage by sustained proteasome-dependent slow degradation of cyclin B. Therefore, we tested whether interfering with mitotic slippage through proteasome inhibition arrests and kills AML cells more efficiently during mitosis. We show that therapeutic doses of bortezomib block the slow degradation of cyclin B during a volasertib-induced mitotic arrest in AML cell lines and patient-derived primary AML cells. In a xenotransplant mouse model of human AML, mice receiving volasertib in combination with bortezomib showed superior disease control compared to mice receiving volasertib alone, highlighting the potential therapeutic impact of this drug combination.
Project description:Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with activating EGFR mutations, but resistance is inevitable. Mechanisms of acquired resistance include T790M mutations and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). One potential strategy for overcoming this resistance is the inhibition of polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) based on our previous studies showing that mesenchymal NSCLC cell lines are more sensitive to PLK1 inhibition than epithelial cell lines. To determine the extent to which PLK1 inhibition overcomes EGFR TKI resistance we measured the effects of the PLK1 inhibitor volasertib alone and in combination with the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib in vitro and in vivo in EGFR mutant NSCLC cell lines with acquired resistance to erlotinib. Two erlotinib-resistant cell lines that underwent EMT had higher sensitivity to volasertib, which caused G2/M arrest and apoptosis, than their parental cells. In all NSCLC cell lines with T790M mutations, volasertib markedly reduced erlotinib resistance. All erlotinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines with T790M mutations had higher sensitivity to erlotinib plus volasertib than to erlotinib alone, and the combination treatment caused G2/M arrest and apoptosis. Compared with either agent alone, the combination treatment also caused significantly more DNA damage and greater reductions in tumor size. Our results suggest that PLK1 inhibition is clinically effective against NSCLC that becomes resistant to EGFR inhibition through EMT or the acquisition of a T790M mutation. These results uncover new functions of PLK1 inhibition in the treatment of NSCLC with acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs.
Project description:Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1), a master regulator of mitosis and the DNA damage response, is considered to be an intriguing target in the research field of mitotic intervention. The observation that Plk1 is overexpressed in multiple human malignancies, including non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), gave rise to the development of several small-molecule inhibitors. Volasertib, presently the most extensively studied Plk1 inhibitor, has been validated to efficiently reduce tumor growth in preclinical settings. Unfortunately, only modest antitumor activity against solid tumors was reported in clinical trials. This discrepancy prompted research into the identification of predictive biomarkers. In this study, we investigated the therapeutic effect of volasertib monotherapy (i.e., cytotoxicity, cell cycle distribution, apoptotic cell death, cellular senescence, and migration) in a panel of NSCLC cell lines differing in p53 status under both normal and reduced oxygen tension (<0.1% O2 ). A strong growth inhibitory effect was observed in p53 wild-type cells (A549 and A549-NTC), with IC50 values significantly lower than those in p53 knockdown/mutant cells (A549-920 and NCI-H1975) (P < 0.001). While mitotic arrest was significantly greater in cells with nonfunctional p53 (P < 0.005), apoptotic cell death (P < 0.026) and cellular senescence (P < 0.021) were predominantly induced in p53 wild-type cells. Overall, the therapeutic effect of volasertib was reduced under hypoxia (P < 0.050). Remarkably, volasertib inhibited cell migration in all cell lines tested (P < 0.040), with the exception of for the NCI-H1975 p53 mutant cell line. In conclusion, our results show an important difference in the therapeutic effect of Plk1 inhibition in NSCLC cells with versus without functional p53. Overall, the p53 wild-type cell lines were more sensitive to volasertib treatment, suggesting that p53 might be a predictive biomarker for Plk1 inhibition in NSCLC. Moreover, our results pave the way for new combination strategies with Plk1 inhibitors to enhance antitumor activity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), often diagnosed at advanced stages without curative therapies, is the fifth most common malignant cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality. Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is activated in the late G2 phase of the cell cycle and is required for entry to mitosis. Interestingly, PLK1 is overexpressed in many HCC patients and is highly associated with poor clinical outcome. Baculoviral inhibitor of apoptosis repeat-containing 5 (BIRC5) is also highly overexpressed in HCC and plays key roles in this malignancy. AIM:To determine the expression patterns of PLK1 and BIRC5, as well as their correlation with p53 mutation status and patient clinical outcome. METHODS:The expression patterns of PLK1 and BIRC5, and their correlation with p53 mutation status or patient clinical outcome were analyzed using a TCGA HCC dataset. Cell viability, cell apoptosis, and cell cycle arrest assays were conducted to investigate the efficacy of the PLK1 inhibitors volasertib and GSK461364 and the BIRC5 inhibitor YM155, alone or in combination. The in vivo efficacy of volasertib and YM155, alone or in combination, was assessed in p53-mutated Huh7-derived xenograft models in immune-deficient NSIG mice. RESULTS:Our bioinformatics analysis using a TCGA HCC dataset revealed that PLK1 and BIRC5 were overexpressed in the same patient subset and their expression was highly correlated. The overexpression of both PLK1 and BIRC5 was more frequently detected in HCC with p53 mutations. High PLK1 or BIRC5 expression significantly correlated with poor clinical outcome. PLK1 inhibitors (volasertib and GSK461364) or a BIRC5 inhibitor (YM155) selectively targeted Huh7 cells with mutated p53, but not HepG2 cells with wild-type p53. The combination treatment of volasertib and YM155 synergistically inhibited the viability of Huh7 cells via apoptotic pathway. The efficacy of volasertib and YM155, alone or in combination, was validated in vivo in a Huh7-derived xenograft model. CONCLUSION:PLK1 and BIRC5 are highly co-expressed in p53-mutated HCC and inhibition of both PLK1 and BIRC5 synergistically compromises the viability of p53-mutated HCC cells in vitro and in vivo.
Project description:Treatment outcomes for older patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) have remained dismal. This randomized, phase 2 trial in AML patients not considered suitable for intensive induction therapy compared low-dose cytarabine (LDAC) with or without volasertib, a highly potent and selective inhibitor of polo-like kinases. Eighty-seven patients (median age 75 years) received LDAC 20 mg twice daily subcutaneously days 1-10 or LDAC + volasertib 350 mg IV days 1 + 15 every 4 weeks. Response rate (complete remission and complete remission with incomplete blood count recovery) was higher for LDAC + volasertib vs LDAC (31.0% vs 13.3%; odds ratio, 2.91; P = .052). Responses in the LDAC + volasertib arm were observed across all genetic groups, including 5 of 14 patients with adverse cytogenetics. Median event-free survival was significantly prolonged by LDAC + volasertib compared with LDAC (5.6 vs 2.3 months; hazard ratio, 0.57; 95% confidence interval, 0.35-0.92; P = .021); median overall survival was 8.0 vs 5.2 months, respectively (hazard ratio, 0.63; 95% confidence interval, 0.40-1.00; P = .047). LDAC + volasertib led to an increased frequency of adverse events that was most pronounced for neutropenic fever/infections and gastrointestinal events; there was no increase in the death rate at days 60 + 90. This study was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov as #NCT00804856.
Project description:Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disease diagnosed mostly in patients >65 years of age. Despite its heterogeneous nature, the different types of AMLs are still managed by standard induction chemotherapy for those who can tolerate it in the beginning. For the elderly and infirm patients, however, this approach leads to unacceptably high induction mortality rate. This article reviews past and current efforts searching for low-intensiveness treatments for the elderly and infirm patients who cannot tolerate the standard induction regimen. Volasertib, currently in Phase III clinical trials in combination with cytarabine, is reviewed as a promising agent for this patient population with AML, from the viewpoints of potential compliance and efficacy.