Research Papers:

PIM kinase inhibitor, AZD1208, inhibits protein translation and induces autophagy in primary chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells

Fabiola Cervantes-Gomez, Christine M. Stellrecht, Mary L. Ayres, Michael J. Keating, William G. Wierda and Varsha Gandhi

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Oncotarget. 2019; 10:2793-2809. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26876

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Fabiola Cervantes-Gomez1, Christine M. Stellrecht1,3, Mary L. Ayres1, Michael J. Keating2, William G. Wierda2 and Varsha Gandhi1,2,3

1 Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

2 Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

3 Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX, USA

Correspondence to:

Varsha Gandhi,email: [email protected]

Keywords: PIM kinase; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; protein translation; apoptosis; autophagy

Received: August 29, 2018     Accepted: March 23, 2019     Published: April 19, 2019


The PIM1, PIM2, and PIM3 serine/threonine kinases play a role in the proliferation and survival of cancer cells. Mice lacking these three kinases were viable. Further, in human hematological malignancies, these proteins are overexpressed making them suitable targets. Several small molecule inhibitors against this enzyme were synthesized and tested. AZD1208, an orally available small-molecule drug, inhibits all three PIM kinases at a low nanomolar range. AZD1208 has been tested in clinical trials for patients with solid tumors and hematological malignancies, especially acute myelogenous leukemia. The present study evaluated the efficacy and biological actions of AZD1208 in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells. CLL cells had higher levels of PIM2 protein and mRNAs than did normal lymphocytes from healthy donors. Treatment of CLL lymphocytes with AZD1208 resulted in modest cell death, whereas practically no cytotoxicity was observed in healthy lymphocytes. To determine the mechanism by which AZD1208 inhibits PIM kinase function, we evaluated PIM kinase pathway and downstream substrates. Because peripheral blood CLL cells are replicationally quiescent, we analyzed substrates involved in apoptosis, transcription, and translation but not cell cycle targets. AZD1208 inhibited protein translation by decreasing phosphorylation levels of 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1). AZD1208 induced autophagy in replicationally-quiescent CLL cells, which is consistent with protein translation inhibition. These data suggest that AZD1208 may elicit cytotoxicity in CLL cells through inhibiting translation and autophagy induction.

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