B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) prevents commitment to programmed cell death at the mitochondrion. It remains a challenge to identify those tumors that are best treated by inhibition of BCL-2. Here, we demonstrate that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell lines, primary patient samples, and murine primary xenografts are very sensitive to treatment with the selective BCL-2 antagonist ABT-199. In primary patient cells, the median IC 50 was approximately 10 nmol/L, and cell death occurred within 2 hours. Our ex vivo sensitivity results compare favorably with those observed for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease for which ABT-199 has demonstrated consistent activity in clinical trials. Moreover, mitochondrial studies using BH3 profi ling demonstrate activity at the mitochondrion that correlates well with cytotoxicity, supporting an on-target mitochondrial mechanism of action. Our protein and BH3 profiling studies provide promising tools that can be tested as predictive biomarkers in any clinical trial of ABT-199 in AML. SIGNIFICANCE: Although targeting BCL-2 has largely been investigated in lymphoid cancers, we present preclinical results of targeting BCL-2 in AML. These results support clinical testing of the small-molecule BCL-2 antagonist ABT-199 in AML, accompanied by testing of predictive biomarkers used in this study.
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