Research Papers:

Combined inhibition of GLI and FLT3 signaling leads to effective anti-leukemic effects in human acute myeloid leukemia

Emily-Marie Latuske, Hauke Stamm, Marianne Klokow, Gabi Vohwinkel, Jana Muschhammer, Carsten Bokemeyer, Manfred Jücker, Maxim Kebenko, Walter Fiedler _ and Jasmin Wellbrock

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:29187-29201. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.16304

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Emily-Marie Latuske1, Hauke Stamm1, Marianne Klokow1, Gabi Vohwinkel1, Jana Muschhammer1, Carsten Bokemeyer1, Manfred Jücker2, Maxim Kebenko1, Walter Fiedler1, Jasmin Wellbrock1

1Department of Oncology, Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation with Section Pneumology, Hubertus Wald University Cancer Center, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

2Institute of Biochemistry and Signal Transduction, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

Correspondence to:

Walter Fiedler, email: fiedler@uke.de

Keywords: Hedgehog, non-canonical, GLI, FLT3, AML

Received: July 22, 2016     Accepted: February 20, 2017     Published: March 16, 2017


Activation of the Hedgehog pathway has been implicated in the pathogenesis of several tumor types including myeloid leukemia. Previously we demonstrated that overexpression of Hedgehog downstream mediators GLI1/2 confers an adverse prognosis to patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and is correlated with a FLT3 mutated status. To analyze a possible non-canonical activation of the Hedgehog pathway via FLT3 and PI3K, we performed blocking experiments utilizing inhibitors for FLT3 (sunitinib), PI3K (PF-04691502) and GLI1/2 (GANT61) in FLT3-mutated and FLT3 wildtype AML cell lines and primary blasts. Combination of all three compounds had stronger anti-leukemic effects in FLT3-mutated compared to FLT3 wildtype AML cells in vitro. Interestingly, the colony growth of normal CD34+ cells from healthy donors was not impeded by the triple inhibitor combination possibly opening a therapeutic window for the clinical use of inhibitor combinations. Besides, combined treatment with sunitinib, PF-04691502 and GANT61 significantly prolonged the survival of mice transplanted with FLT3-mutated MV4-11 cells compared to the single agent treatments. Furthermore, the inhibition of FLT3 and PI3K resulted in reduced GLI protein expression and promotor activity in FLT3-mutated but not in FLT3 wildtype AML cell lines in western blotting and GLI1/2 promoter assays supporting our hypothesis of non-canonical GLI activation via FLT3.

In summary, FLT3-mutated in contrast to FLT3 wildtype cells or normal human hematopoietic progenitor cells are exquisitely sensitive to combined inhibition by FLT3, PI3K and GLI1/2 overcoming some of the limitations of current FLT3 directed therapy in AML. The development of GLI1/2 inhibitors is highly desirable.

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