(PDF) The oral HDAC inhibitor pracinostat (SB939) is efficacious and synergistic with the JAK2 inhibitor pacritinib (SB1518) in preclinical models of AML - DOKUMEN.TIPS (2024)

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The oral HDAC inhibitor pracinostat (SB939) is efficaciousand synergistic with the JAK2 inhibitor pacritinib (SB1518)in preclinical models of AMLV Novotny-Diermayr, S Hart, KC Goh, A Cheong, L-C Ong, H Hentze, MK Pasha, R Jayaraman, K Ethirajulu and JM Wood

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is currently treated with aggressive chemotherapy that is not well tolerated in many elderly patients,hence the unmet medical need for effective therapies with less toxicity and better tolerability. Inhibitors of FMS-like tyrosinekinase 3 (FLT3), JAK2 and histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) have been tested in clinical studies, but showed only moderatesingle-agent activity. High efficacy of the HDACi pracinostat treating AML and synergy with the JAK2/FLT3 inhibitor pacritinibis demonstrated. Both compounds inhibit JAK-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling in AML cells withJAK2V617F mutations, but also diminish FLT3 signaling, particularly in FLT3-ITD (internal tandem duplication) cell lines. In vitro,this combination led to decreased cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. The synergy translated in vivo in two different AMLmodels, the SET-2 megakaryoblastic AML mouse model carrying a JAK2V617F mutation, and the MOLM-13 model of FLT3-ITD-drivenAML. Pracinostat and pacritinib in combination showed synergy on tumor growth, reduction of metastases and synergisticallydecreased JAK2 or FLT signaling, depending on the cellular context. In addition, several plasma cytokines/growth factors/chemokines triggered by the tumor growth were normalized, providing a rationale for combination therapy with an HDACiand a JAK2/FLT3 inhibitor for the treatment of AML patients, particularly those with FLT3 or JAK2 mutations.

Blood Cancer Journal (2012) 2, e69; doi:10.1038/bcj.2012.14; published online 4 May 2012

Keywords: HDAC inhibitor; JAK2 inhibitor; FLT3 inhibitor; in vivo combination; AML

INTRODUCTIONAcute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a myeloid malignancy character-ized by deregulated proliferation, increased self-renewal andlimited differentiation of myeloid blasts. AML is typicallydiagnosed in elderly patients and the standard of care treatmentis mainly chemotherapy. Most patients relapse and perish fromthe disease or the associated complications. Aggressive che-motherapeutic treatment can only be used in a minority ofpatients; hence, there is a great medical unmet need, for effectivetargeted therapy with less toxicity and better tolerability.1

Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are a class of drugs thatalter the acetylation status of both histone and non-histoneproteins, thereby affecting a range of cellular functions ofneoplastic cells, such as transcriptional activation, cell prolifera-tion, immune responses, cell differentiation, survival and angio-genesis.2,3 HDACis, including pracinostat (SB939), have shownclinical activity in AML and myelodysplastic syndrome, as well asmyeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs); however, it seems thatefficacy as a single agent is only moderate.4–6

JAK2 mutations or fusion proteins leading to constitutiveactivation of JAK2 have long been known to have a role in MPNsand leukemia.7,8 JAK2 inhibitors, such as pacritinib (SB1518),9 anoral inhibitor currently in Phase II clinical studies, as well as otherJAK2 inhibitors show significant efficacy in treating MPNs,10–12

reducing the JAK-STAT (signal transducer and activator oftranscription) signaling, spleen size, JAK2V617F mutation burden,as well as levels of certain cytokines/growth factors relevantin MPNs. Nuclear JAK2 has been reported to have a second,

epigenetic function that might contribute to leukemogenesis.13,14

The JAK-family kinases were shown to cause phosphorylation ofY41 on histone H3, displacing heterochromatin protein 1a fromits position bound to histone H3. Sustained displacement ofthe heterochromatin protein 1a triggers increased expressionof oncogenic transcription factors, such as LMO2, enhancedmitotic recombination, chromosomal disjunction and aneuploidy.All these changes promote oncogenesis and are consistent withthe phenotypic consequences observed after constitutive JAK2activation in hematological malignancies.13,15

A mutation in the FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3), the FLT3internal tandem duplication (ITD), causes constitutive active FLT3signaling, leading to activation of the downstream STAT5. TheFLT3–ITDs are described in up to 35% of all AML patients,16,17 anda single FLT3–ITD is sufficient to induce a myeloproliferativephenotype, as shown in genetic mouse models,18,19 demon-strating the importance of mutated FLT3 in the pathogenesis ofacute leukemia.

The HDACi givinostat (ITF2357) has been reported to reducelevels of total JAK2 as well as STAT5 in the JAK2V617F mutantcells.20 In addition, the HDACi panobinostat and the JAK2/FLT3/RET inhibitor TG101209 are reported to exert synergistic cyto-toxic effects against cell lines carrying the JAK2V617F mutation.21

Another interesting recent observation is that HDACi selectivelytarget FLT3–ITD for degradation in AML cells.22 In addition,superior activity on AML cell apoptosis has been reported for acombination of an HDACi and a FLT3 inhibitor.23,24 On the basis ofthese encouraging observations, we explored at multiple levels

Department of Biology, S*BIO Pte. Ltd, Singapore, Singapore. Correspondence: Dr V Novotny-Diermayr, Department Biology, S*BIO Pte. Ltd, 1 Science Park Road, #05-09 TheCapricorn, Science Park II, Singapore 117528, Singapore.E-mail: [emailprotected] 8 November 2011; revised 22 March 2012; accepted 28 March 2012

Citation: Blood Cancer Journal (2012) 2, e69; doi:10.1038/bcj.2012.14& 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved 2044-5385/12

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the in vitro and in vivo synergy between the HDACi pracinostatand the JAK2/FLT3 inhibitor pacritinib.

Pracinostat is an oral pan-HDACi with favorable pharmaco*ki-netics25 and good tolerability in patients,26,27 which is currentlyexplored as a single agent in multiple Phase II clinical studies, forsolid tumors as well as myelodysplastic syndrome, AML andmyelofibrosis. Pacritinib9 is an oral JAK2/FLT3 kinase inhibitor, alsowith favorable pharmaco*kinetics and good tolerability, which iscurrently in Phase II clinical studies for myelofibrosis andlymphoma.12 The studies described in this manuscript providea rationale for the combination of these two drugs as a treat-ment for AML patients, especially those with either mutatedFLT3 or JAK2.

MATERIALS AND METHODSCompoundsPracinostat (SB939) as hydrochloride salt and pacritinib (SB1518) as citratesalt were synthesized by SAI Advantium Pharma Ltd (Hyderabad, India). Forin vitro studies, drugs were dissolved in dimethyl sulfoxide (10 mM stock);for in vivo studies, the dosing solutions for oral gavage were prepared in0.5% methylcellulose (w/v) and 0.1% Tween-80 in H2O (MC/Tween), storedat 4 1C, and prepared freshly at least every week. All in vivo doses describedfor pacritinib refer to the free base.

CellsCell lines used were obtained from either the American Type CultureCollection (Manassas, VA, USA) or the Deutsche Sammlung vonMikroorganismen und Zellkulturen (Braunschweig, Germany). SET-2,KG-1, F36-P, HEL92.1.7, THP-1, MV4-11, MOLM-13, ML-2, ME-1, SH-2,HL-60, MOLM-16, 32D, K562, KARPAS-1106P and RS4;11 cells were allcultivated according to the vendor’s instructions, tested for mycoplasmacontamination (Mycoplasma Plus PCR Primer Set, Stratagene; AgileneTechnologies Inc., Santa Clara, CA, USA) and verified by STR profiling (JohnHopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA). Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor to supplement F-36P cell growth medium was obtainedfrom i-DNA Biotechnology (Singapore), fetal bovine serum was obtainedfrom PAA Laboratories GmbH (Pasching, Austria).

Primary AML cellsPeripheral blood mononuclear cells or bone marrow mononuclear cellsfrom AML patients were obtained from AllCells (Emeryville, CA, USA) andProteoGenex (Culver City, CA, USA) from a total of 16 patients. Cultivation,expansion and analysis were carried out as described previously.28

Cell proliferation assay and determination of in vitro synergyCells were seeded in 96-well plates at a predetermined optimal density (inthe log phase and rested for 2 h) before drug treatment and then treatedfor 48 h with drug concentrations from 10mM to 1.5 nM in 9 serial-dilutionsteps with 0.1% solvent, and using the CellTiter-Glo Assay (Promega,Madison, WI, USA), according to the manufacturer’s instructions, in a totalvolume of 100ml. At least three independent experiments were performedin triplicates. IC50 were determined using XLfit (IDBS, Guildford, UK). Tocalculate the in vitro synergy of two drugs, they were combined at aconstant ratio, based on the individual drug’s IC50 concentrations, with thehighest doses used being 8� IC50 concentrations.29 For sequentialtreatments, cells were treated with drug 1 for 24 h followed by a 24 htreatment with drug 2; simultaneous treatments were performed for 48 h.Synergy was determined using the CompuSyn software (v2007; ComboSynInc., Paramus, NJ, USA). Combinatorial indices (CIs) were calculated29 CIo1(synergy), CI41 (antagonism) and CI¼ 1 (additive) for in vitro combinations.

Lysis and western blotsCell lysis, protein quantification and western blots were performed asdescribed previously.20 Antibodies against pFLT3 Y591 (no. 3461), pSTAT3Y705 (no. 9145), pJAK2 Y1007/1008 (no. 3776), STAT5 (no. 9310), andcleaved poly-adenosine di-phosphate ribose polymerase N214 (no. 9541)as well as horse-radish peroxidase linked secondary antibodies were fromCell Signaling Technologies (Danvers, MA, USA). The antibodies againstpSTAT5 Y694 (no. 611965) and STAT3 (no. 610190) were obtained from BD

Biosciences (San Jose, CA, USA). The b-actin antibody (no. 2066) and theFLT3 antibody were from Sigma Aldrich (St Louis, MO, USA) and Santa CruzBiotechnology (Santa Cruz, CA, USA), respectively. The LMO2 antibody(no. 91652) was obtained from Abcam (Cambridge, MA, USA).

Subcutaneous animal modelsFemale BALB/c nude mice were obtained from the Biological ResourceCentre (Biopolis, Singapore), female SCID mice were purchased fromBioLASCO (Taipei, Taiwan) and female SCID/Beige mice were obtainedfrom Charles River Laboratories (Willmington, MA, USA). BALB/c nude mice(BALB/cOlaHsd-Foxn1nu) were 8–10 weeks of age; SCID mice (C.B-17/IcrHantHsd-Prkdcscid) 5–11 weeks of age, and SCID-Beige mice (C.B-17.Cg-PrkdcscidLystbg/Crl) were 9 weeks old. Standard protocols were followed, incompliance with the National Institutes of Health and National AdvisoryCommittee for Laboratory Animal Research guidelines (IACUC approval no.0800371).

For subcutaneous (s.c.) AML models, mice were implanted with 5� 106

cells (or 1� 107 for MV4–11 cells) in the right flank. Cells were re-suspended in 50ml serum-free growth medium, mixed 1:1 with Matrigel(Cat no. 354248; BD Bioscience) and injected in a total volume of 100ml.Tumor volumes were monitored using caliper measurements and volumescalculated using the formula: tumor volume (mm3)¼ (w2� l)/2 (w¼widthand l¼ length in mm of the tumor xenograft). Pracinostat and pacritinibwere administered by per oral gavage in a volume of 10 ml/kg if nototherwise stated. Pracinostat was dosed at 25–125 mg/kg either dailyor every other day. Pacritinib was dosed 50–150 mg/kg daily or twicedaily. Tumors were excised on the last day of treatment, 3 h post-dose.In vivo synergy was determined using the Clarke’s CI (CCI) Equation:30

CCI¼A/B� (C/B�D/B), and must be o0 to be synergistic, where A is theaverage tumor measurement from the combination group; B, the averagemeasurement from the vehicle control; and C and D, the average measure-ments from monotherapy 1 and 2, respectively. All statistical analyses wereperformed using GraphPad Prism 5 (GraphPad Software, La Jolla, CA, USA).

Orthotopic AML modelSCID mice (from Biological Resource Centre) were injected intravenouslywith 1� 107 HL-60 cells in 100ml serum-free medium. Mice weremonitored three times per week for signs of paralysis. A separate take-rate control group was analyzed on day (d) 29 as previously described,31

indicating a good take-rate. Treatment of the experimental group started 1day later, on d30 after inoculation (before the first mouse in this groupshowed symptoms of paralysis). Blood counts were performed from tailblood, using a ScilVet abc hematology analyzer (Scil Animal Care Company,Gurnee, IL, USA) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Statisticalanalyses were performed using GraphPad Prism 5.

Pharmaco*kinetic analysis of pracinostat and pacritinibThe bioanalysis to detect levels of either pracinostat or pacritinib from 50 mlmurine plasma was performed as described previously.9,20 Twoindependent experiments were performed, either in 16 weeks oldfemale BALB/c nude mice (BALB/cOlaHsd-Foxn1nu) from BiologicalResource Centre (n¼ 3–5 per time point), or in 8–12 weeks old femaleBALB/c mice (BALB/cOlaHsd) from Biological Resource Centre (n¼ 4 pertime point). Pharmaco*kinetic parameters were calculated by a non-compartmental method using WinNonlin 5.2 software (Pharsight Corp.,Sunnyvale, CA, USA).

Cytokine/growth factor analysisMurine or human plasma samples were analyzed by Millipore Corp.(Billerica, MA, USA) for cytokine/chemokine/growth factor measurementsusing the Luminex xMAP technology. The Milliplex MAP Mouse Cytokine/Chemokine panel (premixed 32-plex, MPXMCYTO-LIX) was used for mousesamples.

RESULTSPracinostat inhibits JAK-STAT as well as FLT3-STAT5 signalingCells, expressing wild-type (wt) JAK2 (32D murine myeloid cells)or mutant JAK2V617F (HEL92.1.7 and SET-2) were treated withpracinostat in concentrations ranging from 125–500 nM for 24 h,and levels of pJAK2, JAK2, pSTAT5 and STAT5 were measured.

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Pracinostat treatment decreased both pJAK2 (Y1007/08) andpSTAT5 (Y694) levels, and also total JAK2 and STAT5 protein inJAK2V617F mutant cells (see Figure 1a). These proteins remainedunaffected in the JAK2 wt cells 32D and KARPAS 1106-P (Figure 1aright hand panel and data not shown). To determine the effectsof pracinostat on cells with either mutated or wt FLT3, MV4-11cells or MOLM-13 cells carrying FLT3 ITDs were comparedwith RS4;11 cells with wt FLT3. In FLT3-ITD cell lines, pracinostatled to a near-total ablation of pFLT3 (Y591) at 500 nM in MV4-11and MOLM-13 cells, respectively, with very steep dose response(Figure 1b). There was a concomitant decrease in total FLT3as well as pSTAT5, described to be a direct downstream substrateof FLT3 in FLT3-ITD cell lines.32 In RS4;11 cells, which express wtFLT3, levels of pFLT3 and FLT3, and pSTAT5 were also reduced,but to a lesser extent and more gradually with dose than in theFLT3-ITD cell lines. In contrast to the FLT3-ITD cell lines, there wasno decrease in total STAT5; however, the levels of total STAT5 arevery low.

Pracinostat and pacritinib show in vitro synergy on STAT signalingand apoptosisTo determine whether pacritinib, a JAK2/FLT3 kinase inhibitor,combined with pracinostat would lead to even more pronouncedinhibition of STAT signaling and cause increased cell death in JAK2- orFLT3-driven disease models, JAK2V617F mutant cell lines were treatedsimultaneously with pracinostat and pacritinib. As described previ-ously, pacritinib treatment alone increased pJAK2 levels in theJAK2V617F cell lines,9 whereas downstream pSTAT5 was decreased.The combination of pacritinib and pracinostat completely abrogatedthe JAK2-autophosphorylation in Set-2 cells (Figure 1c). The sameeffect, although to a lesser extent, was observed in HEL92.1.7 cells.Concurrently with the decrease in pSTAT5, there was an increasein cleaved poly-adenosine di-phosphate ribose polymerase levels,indicating enhanced cell death after the combination of pracinostatand pacritinib. This was also more pronounced in SET-2 cells thanHEL92.1.7 cells (Figure 1c). The combination also increased efficacy inreducing levels of pFLT3 and total FLT3, as well as increasing cleaved

Figure 1. Pracinostat downregulates JAK and FLT3 signaling in JAK2V617F and FLT-ITD cell lines, and shows synergy in combinationwith pacritinib. (a–d) Western blot analyses from 25 or 50 mg (pFLT3 and FLT3 blots only) of total cell lysate of the indicated cell lines withJAK2V617F, JAK2, or FLT3-ITD or FLT3 wt are shown. (a, b) Cells were treated with the indicated concentrations of pracinostat (SB939) for 24 h.(c, d) Cells were treated for 24 h with pracinostat with pacritinib (SB1518) added in the indicated concentrations for the last 2 h of incubationbefore lysis.

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poly-adenosine di-phosphate ribose polymerase in the FLT3-ITD celllines MV4-11 and MOLM-13 (Figure 1d). There was also a greaterreduction in the oncogenic transcription factor LMO2, suggestingthat pracinostat and pacritinib also might synergize on theepigenetic level (bottom panel of Figure 1d) in FLT3-ITD cell lines.

Pracinostat potently inhibits proliferation of different AMLsubtypes as a single agent and is synergistic with pacritinibin JAK2V617F or FLT3-ITD AML cell linesAML cells are among the most sensitive cancer cells to HDACinhibition.20 The IC50 on cell proliferation in a panel of 11 AML celllines ranged from 70–560 nM, with the panel covering most subtypesof AML according to the French–American–British classification, withthe exception of M1 and M3 (see Figure 2a). Primary AML cells,expanded from peripheral or bone marrow blasts in the presenceof FLT3 ligand, stem cell factor, interleukin (IL)-3 and IL-6 wereon average less potently inhibited, with mean IC50 values for thedifferent French-American-British (FAB) classification types rangingbetween 622 nM and 1.5mM. Individual blasts had IC50 as low as169 nM and others as high as 2.2mM (Figure 2b, SupplementaryFigures 1 and 2). Within the small number of cells and cell linestested, there was no clear trend for any AML subtype to be moresensitive to HDAC inhibition than others. The two FLT3-ITD primaryAML blasts (Figure 2b, shaded gray) had similar sensitivity towards

pracinostat as the FLT3 wt blasts. For pacritinib, cell lines dependenton either JAK2 or FLT3 signaling (such as SET-2, MV4-11 or MOLM-13)were the most sensitive to JAK2/FLT3 inhibition, both on cellproliferation as well as on the target biomarker levels (describedelsewhere9). Similarly, primary AML blasts containing the FLT-3ITD were amongst the most pacritinib-sensitive cells in cellproliferation assays.33 In vitro synergy was observed whencombining pracinostat and pacritinib (i.e., CIso1) in both FLT3-ITD cell lines and JAK2V617F cell lines, but not in HL-60 or KG-1cells, which are wt for both genes. However, synergy wasobserved for F-36P cells, which are wt for both JAK2 and FLT3,but are fully dependent on JAK2 signaling. The best effects wereobserved in FLT3-ITD cell lines when both drugs wereadministered simultaneously, with CIs of 0.77 and 0.41 at acombination of doses that effectively blocked 90% of cellproliferation (ED90) for MOLM-13 and MV4-11, respectively(Table 1). Weaker synergy was noted in JAK2V617F cell lines whenpracinostat was administered 24 h before pacritinib, with CIs of0.95 and 0.81 at ED90, respectively, for SET-2 and HEL92.1.7 cells.The addition of pacritinib before pracinostat was antagonistic inall cell lines tested at ED90 (Table 1).

Pracinostat is efficacious in various animal models of human AMLPracinostat as a single therapy was tested in different mousemodels of human AML. Treatment of mice bearing MV4-11xenografts with pracinostat (25 or 50 mg/kg per day for 21 days)induced significant (Po0.001) inhibition of tumor growth (TGI), by59 and 116%, respectively. Complete tumor regression wasobserved in 6 out of 10 animals at the end of the treatmentafter the 50-mg dose (Figure 3a). To determine the anti-tumorefficacy in a model that is less sensitive to pracinostat, based on

M1 M2 M3 M4 M5 Notknown

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CBFB-MYH11fus.

Figure 2. Pracinostat potently inhibits cell proliferation in AML celllines and primary AML cells. (a) IC50 of cell lines tested in 48 h cellproliferation assays (CellTiterGlo); FAB: French–American–Britishclassification of AML cells. Results show mean±s.d. from at leastthree rounds of experiments, each performed in triplicates.(b) Primary AML blasts from 16 patients were expanded and thentreated on d12–d13 with dimethyl sulfoxide or pracinostat seriallydiluted in nine steps from 10 mM to 1.5 nM for 48 h. Results showmeans from two rounds of blast expansion/proliferation assays.Gray-shaded icons depict blast cells carrying the FLT3-ITD.

Table 1. In vitro combination of pracinostat (SB939) and pacritinib(SB1518)

Cell line Sequence CI atED50±s.d.

CI atED90±s.d.

n

Simultaneously 0.89±0.1 0.77±0.1MOLM-13 (FLT3 ITD) SB939 first 1.49±0.3 1.48±0.4 2

SB1518 first 1.50±0.1 1.32±0.0

Simultaneously 0.55±0.1 0.41±0.2MV4-11 (FLT3 ITD) SB939 first 0.72±0.1 0.55±0.3 2

SB1518 first 1.69±0.5 2.49±1.3

Simultaneously 1.4±0.2 1.35±0.2HL-60 SB939 first 1.35±0.5 1.57±0.3 4

SB1518 first 1.67±0.2 2.17±1.1

Simultaneously 1.6±0.2 1.7±0.1KG1 SB939 first 1.3±0.5 1.0±0.2 2

SB1518 first 1.8±0.1 2.7±0.6

Simultaneously 0.91 1.27SET-2 (JAK2mt) SB939 first 1.13 0.95 1

SB1518 first 0.98 1.41

Simultaneously 2.07±0.9 2.40±1.4HEL92.1.7 (JAK2 mt) SB939 first 0.99±0.0 0.81±0.1 2

SB1518 first 2.12±1.0 2.30±0.7

Simultaneously 0.74±0.2 0.6±0.2F36P (GM-CSFdep,JAK2 wt)

SB939 first 0.98±0.3 0.8±0.3 3SB1518 first 1.81±0.8 1.9±1.0

Abbreviations: CI, combinatorial indice; GM-CSF, granulocyte macrophagecolony-stimulating factor; mt, mutant; wt, wild type.

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cell proliferation in vitro, mice bearing HEL92.1.7 xenografts weretreated with pracinostat at either 75 or 125 mg/kg every other dayfor a total of 17 days. Dose-dependent TGI (55%) was observed,which was statistically significant (Po0.01) for the higher dose.Pracinostat was very well tolerated in both studies (maximumbody weight losses of 7 and 4.7%, respectively, in the MV4-11 andHEL92.1.7 model). See Supplementary Table 1 for an overview ofthe efficacy in different models. To assess the efficacy ofpracinostat in a more physiological relevant model, HL-60 cellswere engrafted orthotopically (via tail vein injection). Treatmentwith 125 mg/kg pracinostat in a thrice weekly schedule wasstarted once the disease was established on d30, (as measured byfluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis of human cell-surfacemarkers on HL-60 cells in the murine bone marrow and peripheralblood, data not shown), but before the onset of the firstsymptoms, such as hind-leg paralysis. Pracinostat treatment ledto a 17-day delay of the disease onset and a 50% reductionof death caused by progressive AML on study d24 (Figure 3c,upper panel). White blood counts on d15 of the study weresix-fold elevated and lymphocyte counts three-fold elevatedin vehicle-treated animals compared with disease-free SCIDmice (i.e., mice that were not inoculated with HL-60 cells).Pracinostat treatment led to a significant (Po0.001) decreasein blood counts, effectively normalizing blood counts to thelevels of disease-free mice, without significantly reducing thenumbers of platelets at the same time. These data demonstrated

the efficacy and good tolerability of pracinostat in an orthotopicmodel of AML (Figure 3d).

Pracinostat and pacritinib are synergistic in two different AMLdisease modelsThe SET-2 model of megakaryoblastic leukemia was chosen totest the in vivo combination of pacritinib and pracinostat, as thegrowth of this cell line has been shown to be dependent on theJAK2-STAT5 signaling.34 Pacritinib as a monotherapy, dosed at150 mg/kg twice daily (i.e., the maximum tolerated dose) led to a61% TGI, whereas pracinostat dosed at 75 mg/kg q.o.d (less thanhalf the maximum tolerated dose) inhibited tumor growth by 56%.On the basis of tumor volume, the TGI of the drug combinationwas 86% (Figure 4a). On the basis of tumor weight, monotherapyled to 47 and 42.5% TGI for pacritinib or pracinostat, respectively(Figure 4b), whereas the combination TGI by 75%, giving rise to aCCI value of � 0.06 (indicating synergy). Interestingly, severalinfrequent, but obvious metastases, were found in the lymphnodes of mice in each group, except in mice dosed with pacritinibalone or the animals treated with the combination of both drugs(data not shown). When analyzing tumors at the end of the studyafter chronic treatment with either monotherapy or the drugcombination, pSTAT5 levels were decreased by about 50% bypacritinib alone and by 75% by the combination treatment.Pracinostat alone led to increased pSTAT5 levels compared with

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Figure 3. Pracinostat is efficacious in two s.c. and an orthotopic model of AML. (a) Female BALB/c nude mice (n¼ 10 per group) wereinoculated with 1� 107 MV4-11 cells s.c. into the right flank, and treatment as indicated was started on study d9. (b) Female BALB/c nude mice(n¼ 5 per group) were inoculated s.c. with 5� 106 HEL92.1.7 cells, treatment was started on d18. (c) Female SCID mice (n¼ 6 per group) wereinjected with 1� 107 HL-60 cells intravenously and scored daily for symptoms of paralysis. Treatment with pracinostat (SB939) 125mg/kgthree times per week was initiated on d30, before the first animal showed symptoms of paralysis. Daily disease scores are shown in (c); bloodcounts of naive mice, vehicle- or pracinostat-treated mice are shown in (d). ‘Naive mice’ refers to age-matched SCID mice that were notinjected with HL-60 cells. Statistical significance was determined using analysis of variance/Bonferroni, ***Po0.001 and **Po0.01 significancecompared with vehicle-treated animals.

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vehicle treated animals (Supplementary Figure S3). Subsequently,the combination of pracinostat and pacritinib was also tested inmice bearing FLT3-ITD-driven MOLM-13 s.c. xenografts. In vitrodata showed that the MOLM-13 cells were the most sensitiveto both pracinostat and pacritinib,9 and that the synergy ofcombination treatment was greater than in SET-2 cells (Table 1,Figure 2a). Therefore, a lower dose of pacritinib was used(50 mg/kg daily) in combination with pracinostat (75 mg/kgq.o.d) for the in vivo study with MOLM-13. This MOLM-13xenograft model is extremely aggressive, within 10 days aftercell injection when treatment was initiated, with mean tumorvolumes being 553 mm3. Tumors were excised on d7 of thestudy (after 8 days of treatment) when the mean tumor volumein the vehicle group was 2952 mm3 (and the average tumorweight was 1770 mg). Treatment with pracinostat or pacritinib

as a monotherapy led to a 19.2 and 14.7% reduction in tumorweight, respectively, whereas the combination treatment reducedthe average tumor weight by 46.9%, to 940 mg (Po0.001)(Figure 4c), giving rise to a synergistic CCI of � 0.16. Westernblot analysis of the tumors (harvested 3 h post pacritinibtreatment) on d7 showed that both pacritinib and, to a lesserextent, also pracinostat decreased levels of pSTAT5. Levelsof pFLT3 were only decreased marginally, but chronic treatmentwith pacritinib alone increased expression total levels of FLT3significantly. In combination, pacritinib and pracinostat not onlynormalized FLT3 levels, but also reduced pSTAT5 levels and nearlyabolished all pFLT3 (Figure 4d).

Many of the s.c. implanted tumors in this model metastasized(to the lungs, the nearest breast fat-pad and/or the lymph nodes).In the vehicle group, 9/12 mice had 1 or 2 metastases, some of

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Figure 4. Pracinostat combined with pacritinib is efficacious and synergistic in vivo in two different models of human AML. Female SCID-beigemice (n¼ 12 per group) were inoculated with 5� 106 SET-2 cells and treatment was started on d33 post-implantation (a, b). For thecombination group, both pacritinib (SB1518) and pracinostat (SB939) were administered in half the volume (as a 20mg/kg solution) everyother day; when both compounds were given simultaneously, all other doses were given at 10mg/kg, at least 8 h apart for 19 days (d0–d18).There was one non-treatment-related death in the vehicle group on study d11 (gavaging error). Female SCID mice (n¼ 12 per group) wereinoculated with 5� 106 Molm-13 cells (c, d). Treatment was started on d11, animals were dosed every other day for 8 days, in contrast to (a),animals were dosed with pacritinib only daily (in the evenings), pracinostat dosing remained unchanged, all dosing was done in a 10mg/kgsolution. On the last day, mice were killed and excised tumors were weighed. The doses showing significant TGI versus vehicle (on the last dayof the study) using analysis of variance/Dunnet’s post test, are indicated with **Po0.01 or ***Po0.001. (e) Tumors from the MOLM-13 efficacystudy (c, d) were harvested on the last day 3 h post pacritinib dosing and immediately lysed. Western blot analyses for pFLT3, FLT3, pSTAT5 andb-actin are shown from the lysates of three randomly selected tumors from each treatment group of (c).

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them weighing as much as 208 mg. Metastatic incidences (i.e.,obvious, individual metastases per mouse) were reduced by 60and 50%, respectively, after single-agent treatment with pacritinibor pracinostat, respectively (Figure 4e). In combination, metastaticincidents were reduced by 90%, leading to a CCI of � 0.1,indicating that the combination was able to inhibit metastaticspread synergistically. The pharmaco*kinetic parameters of praci-nostat were similar after 14 days of co-administration withpacritinib, with the concentration–time curve being nearlyidentical on d1 and d14 (Figure 5a). The Cmax and AUC0-N ofpacritinib were increased approximately two-fold in Cmax andapproximately four-fold in AUC after chronic dosing in combina-tion (Figure 5b). Pacritinib also exhibited a two-fold increase inexposure following repeated dosing in toxico*kinetic studies inmice as single agent (data not shown). Therefore, the observedin vivo synergy is unlikely because of a moderate increase inpacritinib exposure in the combination study design.

Effects of pracinostat, pacritinib or the combination ontumor-induced growth factors and cytokines/chemokinesHDACi as well as JAK2 inhibitors have been described to affect theproduction of various growth factors, chemokines and cyto-kines,35–38 thereby influencing tumor growth. Plasma cytokine/growth factor/chemokine levels in naive mice (without SET-2xenograft), or xenografted mice treated with vehicle, pracinostator pacritinib alone, or a combination thereof, were analyzed usingmultiplex analysis/enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. SET-2tumors caused the plasma levels of IL-6, IP-10, KC, MCP-1 andMIP-1b to increase (Figure 6) compared with levels present innaive mice (i.e., mice that were not inoculated with tumor cells).Single-agent treatment with pacritinib or pracinostat led to thenormalization of IL-6, IP-10, KC and MIP-1a. A synergistic effect forthe combination of pacritinib or pracinostat was observed for thechemokine MCP-1. Plasma levels of MCP-1 were elevated from 44(in naive mice) to 168 pg/ml in tumor-bearing mice. Pracinostat or

pacritinib as single agents reduced levels by 40 and 10%,respectively. In combination, MCP-1 levels were reduced by 69%(to 53 pg/ml).

DISCUSSIONIn this study, we show the efficacy and tolerability of the panHDACi pracinostat in various in vitro and in vivo models of AML,and show synergistic effects at multiple levels in combination withthe JAK2/FLT-3 inhibitor pacritinib in both the in vitro and in vivosetting. We also explored the possible mechanisms for thesesynergistic anti-tumor effects. Previously reported synergisticeffects of an HDACi combined with a JAK2 inhibitor was attributedto impaired chaperone function of heat shock protein 90 by theHDACi, promoting proteasomal degradation and depleting totalJAK2 levels.21 FLT3 is another heat shock protein 90 client protein,where mutant forms such as FLT3-ITD are more dependent on thechaperone association than their wt counterpart.39 In addition,earlier studies have shown that HDAC inhibition depleted mRNAlevels of JAK2V617F.21 Therefore, not surprisingly, we have demon-strated that pracinostat not only reduced JAK2/STAT5 proteinlevels in cells bearing a JAK2 mutation, but also FLT3/STAT5 levelsin cells with a FLT-3 mutations (as seen in Figure 1). Recent studieswith the HDACi trichostatin A demonstrate that JAK2/STAT3signaling was decreased by upregulation of the expression ofsuppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) 1 and 3 genes.40 A possibledirect effect of the HDAC inhibition on the phosphorylation ofJAK2, STAT5 and FLT3 was not investigated in this study.

SB939 showed potent inhibition predominantly in JAK2V617F-or FLT3-ITD-harboring cell lines (Figure 2a). The cell line with thelowest IC50 of 70 nM was HL-60, which carries an N-RAS mutation.HDACi have been shown to block Ras-dependent signaling andgrowth transformation.41 Surprisingly, in HEL92.1.7 and MOLM-13cells, the pracinostat IC50 on proliferation is lower than the IC50

on inhibition of JAK2 or FLT3-ITD protein levels, respectively.

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This discrepancy might be a result of modulation of other genesbesides JAK2V617F and FLT3-ITD by HDAC inhibition.

Pacritinib is an equipotent inhibitor of JAK2 and FLT3, whichis effective in reducing JAK2/STAT5 and FLT-3 JAK2 signalingin JAK2 and FLT3 mutant cells, respectively.33 The combinationof pracinostat and pacritinib led to synergistic effects with acomplete inhibition of downstream STAT5 signaling, an increasedefficacy on cell proliferation and the induction of apoptosis.In vitro combination studies in different cell lines with either wt ormutant JAK2 or FLT3 also demonstrated synergy, mostly in cellsthat carried the mutant protein. One exception was the F36-Pcell line. The growth of this cell line depends on exogenouslyadded granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor,42 whichsignals exclusively via JAK2, making it a JAK2 wt-dependent cellline. This indicates that synergy between a JAK2 inhibitor and anHDACi might also work in cells that are fully dependent on JAK2(wt) signaling. Consistent with this, similar in vitro synergy wasobserved in the JAK2 wt SET-2 cells and F36-P cells but not in FLT3mutant cell lines with the specific pan-JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib incombination with pracinostat (data not shown).

LMO2 is a transcription factor involved in normal hemato-poiesis, but also leukemogenesis that is overexpressed in manyAML cells.43 Interestingly, LMO2 levels were downregulatedsynergistically in MOLM-13 cells with pacritinib and pracinostat,and may be a result of another synergistic interaction betweenJAK2 and HDAC. Dawson et al.43 demonstrate that JAK2 inhibi-tion leads to lower levels of histone H3 Y41 phosphorylationon the promoter of LMO2, whereas increasing the binding ofheterochromatin protein 1a at the same site, resulting in lowerexpression of LMO2. JAK2 may have an epigenetic role in thenucleus to influence the status of H3 acetylation. It has been

demonstrated previously that phosphorylation of H3 (on S10)leads to increased efficiency of a subsequent H3 acetylation,resulting in synergistic modifications of gene expression.44

Pacritinib, as well as targeting JAK2, is a potent FLT3 inhibitor.Our group has recently discovered that treatment of FLT3-ITD cellswith FLT3 inhibitors lacking JAK2 activity (e.g., ABT-869, VX-680 orsunitinib), leads to an upregulation of JAK2 activity, causingsecondary resistance.33 Therefore, although combinations of FLT3inhibitors and HDACi have been described to show synergy invitro,23,24 this combination without the additional JAK2 inhibitioncould lead to resistance after chronic dosing and not showenhanced efficacy in the in vivo setting. This may explain whynone of the studies showing in vitro synergy reported any in vivosynergy data. Pacritinib as a dual JAK2/FLT-3 inhibitor is thereforeideally suited for a combination with an HDACi and superior to aninhibitor that only affects FLT3 kinase without targeting other JAKfamily kinases.

Although the combination of pracinostat and pacritinib showedsynergy in vitro, the synergy was greater in the in vivo setting inboth AML models tested. This indicates that there are additionalsynergistic mechanisms that are only working in the whole animalsetting. One example is the synergistic effects observed onmetastases. In AML patients, leukemia cutis and extramedullaryinvolvement of organs such as the lungs are common. Respiratorydistress syndrome secondary to lung involvement causes asignificant percentage of the morbidity/mortality associated withAML.45 Therefore, the synergy observed in reducing metastaticsites in the animal model is certainly of great relevance forAML patients. Interestingly, significantly higher plasma levels ofMCP-1 were measured in untreated AML patients with extra-medullary sites involved than in those with complete remission.46

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Figure 6. Pracinostat and pacritinib have synergistic effects on AML-induced plasma cytokines/growth factors/chemokines. Plasma levels of apanel of 32 cytokines/growth factors/chemokines were analyzed using the MAP Mouse Cytokine/Chemokine panel from Millipore. Plasma wascollected from SCID-beige mice bearing s.c. SET-2 tumors on d18, 3 h post-dose, after chronic dosing with pacritinib and pracinostat from themice used in the efficacy study described in Figure 4.

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This highlights the potential therapeutic benefit with our obser-vation that pracinostat and pacritinib synergistically decreaseMCP-1 plasma levels as well as metastatic occurrences. In bothmodels tested, chronic treatment with one drug alone led to theincrease of a signaling pathway. Pacritinib in the Molm-13 modelor pracinostat (Set-2 model) led to increased FLT3 or pSTAT5levels, respectively, whereas the combination treatment in bothstudies was most efficiently suppressing the signaling, indicatingthat a combination treatment can overcome treatment-inducedresistance.

Effects of tumor-induced elevations of cytokine and chemokinelevels may be another mechanism for the synergy observed withpracinostat and pacritinib. HDACi as well as JAK2 inhibitors havebeen described to affect the production of various growth factorsand cytokines,35–37 thereby influencing tumor growth. Manshouriet al.38 recently showed that resistance to JAK2-inhibitor treat-ment of MPNs is mediated by cytokines produced by the bonemarrow stroma. Distinctly high levels of IL-6, FGF4 and CXCL10/IP-10 were detected in co-cultures of stromal cells and SET-2 cells,mediating resistance to the JAK2 inhibitor antiprimod. AlthoughSCID beige mice that lack B-cells, T-cells, as well as natural killercells, were used for the SET-2 AML model in our studies, highcirculating levels IL-6, IP-10, KC and MCP-1 were measured inthe tumor-bearing mice without drug treatment. Treatment withpacritinib or pracinostat as single agents led to the normalizationof IL-6, IP-10, KC and MIP-1a, and a synergistic normalization ofMCP-1 levels was observed with the combination treatment.

Taken together, our studies demonstrated the synergisticefficacy of a combination of pracinostat and pacritinib in in vitroand in vivo models of AML and offer mechanistic insights for thissynergy. These data provide a scientific rationale for the combina-tion of pracinostat and pacritinib for advanced acute leukemia,which warrants further exploration in a clinical trial.

CONFLICT OF INTERESTThe authors declare no conflict of interest.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSWe are grateful to Yung Kiang Loh and Nina Sausgruber for their technical helpduring the animal experiments and for western blots, respectively.

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Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on Blood Cancer Journal website (http://www.nature.com/bcj)

SB939 and SB1518 in AMLV Novotny-Diermayr et al

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Blood Cancer Journal & 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited

(PDF) The oral HDAC inhibitor pracinostat (SB939) is efficacious and synergistic with the JAK2 inhibitor pacritinib (SB1518) in preclinical models of AML - DOKUMEN.TIPS (2024)

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