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Small molecule inhibitors of WNT signaling effectively induce apoptosis in acute myeloid leukemia cells

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In a significant proportion of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cases the canonical WNT pathway is upregulated and targeting the WNT/LEF1 signaling cascade in AML may be a promising approach to develop new treatments for this entity. Recently two compounds (CGP049090 and PFK115-584) have been identified, which specifically inhibit complexation of β-catenin (CTNNB1) and lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1 (LEF1) leading to transcriptional inactivation of LEF1 in colon carcinoma cell lines. To evaluate the effect of WNT inhibition utilizing theses compounds with regard to their effectivity in AML we treated the AML cell lines Kasumi-1 and HL-60, primary AML blasts and healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) with varying concentrations of both substances. Treatment with both compounds for 24 h resulted in a significant killing of AML cell lines and primary AML blasts with 50% effective concentration doses (EC50) within the submicromolar range. PBMCs were not significantly affected as indicated by EC50-values 100-fold higher than for AML cells. Cell kill was mediated by apoptosis as indicated by induction of caspases 3 and 7 and cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) upon treatment. Furthermore, we could show that both compounds substantially decrease expression of CTNNB1/LEF1 target genes c-myc, cyclin D1 and survivin, proofing the specificity of the substances. This was shown in both, AML cell lines and most of the tested primary samples. Our data demonstrate that targeting this pathway seems to be an innovative approach in the treatment of AML.
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Keywords: WNT; acute myeloid leukemia; lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1; small molecule inhibitor; β-catenin

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department I of Internal Medicine, University at Cologne, Cologne, Germany 2: St.-Antonius-Hospital, Eschweiler, Germany 3: Novartis Pharma Inc., Nürnberg, Germany 4: Natural Products Unit, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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