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State of the Art of the Therapeutic Perspective of Sorafenib Against Hematological Malignancies

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The bi-aryl urea multi-kinase inhibitor Sorafenib (BAY 43-9006, Nexavar) was initially approved for the treatment of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma and advanced renal cell carcinoma. Eleven years after its first description in PubMed, the therapeutic potential of Sorafenib has been evaluated in an increasing number of studies, mainly focused on solid tumors. More recently, the potential usefullness of Sorafenib has started to emerge also against hematological malignancies. At the molecular level, besides the RAF kinase pathway, which represents the first therapeutic target of Sorafenib, additional kinases, in particular the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, have been identified as important targets of Sorafenib. A great interest for the potential use of Sorafenib against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) arose when it was demonstrated that a specific mutation of a kinase gene, called FMS-like tyrosin-kinase-3- internal tandem duplication (FLT-3-ITD) and occurring in more than 30% of AML, represents a molecular target of Sorafenib. However, recent phase I and II clinical studies showed that, in spite of its ability to suppress the activity of this mutated kinase, resistence to Sorafenib rapidly occurs in AML, suggesting that Sorafenib will be more effective in combined therapy than used as single drug. Another critical molecular target of Sorafenib is the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1. The ability of Sorafenib to rapidly shut-off Mcl-1 in virtually all the hematological malignancies investigated, including the B-chronic lymphocytic leukemia, represents a key element for its antileukemic activity as well as for therapeutic combinations based on Sorafenib. In this respect, it is of particular interest that many chemotherapeutic drugs or innovative anti-neoplastic compounds, such as recombinant TRAIL or inibitors of MDM2 protein, are either unable to down-regulate Mcl-1 or in some instances promote a paradoxical induction of Mcl-1. In this review, the growing evidences for the role of Mcl-1 in mediating the anti-leukemic activity of Sorafenib will be discussed in relationship with promising therapeutic perspectives.
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Keywords: Acute Myeloid Leukemia; B-Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia; Bcl-2; ERK pathway; FLT3-ITD; Mcl-1; Sorafenib; hematological malignancies; innovative drug combinations; kinase inhibitor; leukemia

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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