Combined inhibition of β-catenin and Bcr–Abl synergistically targets tyrosine kinase inhibitor-resistant blast crisis chronic myeloid leukemia blasts and progenitors in vitro and in vivo

H. Zhou, P. Y. Mak, H. Mu, D. H. Mak, Z. Zeng, J. Cortes, Q. Liu, M. Andreeff, B. Z. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) resistance and progression to blast crisis (BC), both related to persistent β-catenin activation, remain formidable challenges for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). We observed overexpression of β-catenin in BC-CML stem/progenitor cells, particularly in granulocyte–macrophage progenitors, and highest among a novel CD34+CD38+CD123hiTim-3hi subset as determined by CyTOF analysis. Co-culture with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) induced the expression of β-catenin and its target CD44 in CML cells. A novel Wnt/β-catenin signaling modulator, C82, and nilotinib synergistically killed KBM5T315I and TKI-resistant primary BC-CML cells with or without BCR–ABL kinase mutations even under leukemia/MSC co-culture conditions. Silencing of β-catenin by short interfering RNA restored sensitivity of primary BCR–ABLT315I/E255V BC-CML cells to nilotinib. Combining the C82 pro-drug, PRI-724, with nilotinib significantly prolonged the survival of NOD/SCID/IL2Rγ null mice injected with primary BCR–ABLT315I/E255V BC-CML cells. The combined treatment selectively targeted CML progenitors and inhibited CD44, c-Myc, survivin, p-CRKL and p-STAT5 expression. In addition, pretreating primary BC-CML cells with C82, or the combination, but not with nilotinib alone, significantly impaired their engraftment potential in NOD/SCID/IL2Rγ-null-3/GM/SF mice and significantly prolonged survival. Our data suggest potential benefit of concomitant β-catenin and Bcr–Abl inhibition to prevent or overcome Bcr–Abl kinase-dependent or -independent TKI resistance in BC-CML.Leukemia advance online publication, 18 April 2017; doi:10.1038/leu.2017.87.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 18 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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