Background: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a malignancy of myeloid precursor cells that arise from genomic alterations in the expression of key growth regulatory genes causing cells to assume an undifferentiated state and continue to proliferate. Recent efforts have focused on developing therapies that target specific protein products of aberrantly expressed genes. However, many of the identified proteins are difficult to target and thought to be "undrugable" because of structural challenges, protein overexpression, or mutations that confer resistance to therapy. A novel technology that circumvents some of these issues is the use of small molecules that stabilize secondary DNA structures present in the promoters of many potential oncogenes and modulate their transcription. Methods: This study characterizes the in vitro activity of the G-quadruplex-stabilizing small molecule GQC-05 in AML cells. The effect of GQC-05 on three AML cell lines was analyzed using viability and apoptosis assays. GQC-05 has been shown to down-regulate MYC through G-quadruplex stabilization in Burkitt's lymphoma cell lines. MYC expression was evaluated through qPCR and immunoblotting in the three AML cell lines following the treatment of GQC-05. In order to identify other therapeutic agents that potentiate the activity of GQC-05, combination drug screening was performed. The drug combinations were validated using in vitro cytotoxicity assays and compared to other commonly used chemotherapeutic agents. Results: GQC-05 treatment of KG-1a, CMK and TF-1 cells decreased cell viability and resulted in increased DNA damage and apoptosis. Additionally, treatment of KG-1a, CMK and TF-1 with GQC-05 resulted in decreased expression of MYC mRNA and protein, with a more pronounced effect in KG-1a cells. Combination drug screening identified the Bcl-2/Bcl-XL inhibitor Navitoclax as a compound that potentiated GQC-05 activity. Co-treatment with GQC-05 and Navitoclax showed a synergistic decrease in cell viability of AML cells as determined by Chou-Talalay analysis, and induced more DNA damage, apoptosis, and rapid cytotoxicity. The cytotoxicity induced by GQC-05 and Navitoclax was more potent than that of Navitoclax combined with either cytarabine or doxorubicin. Conclusion: These results suggest that the G-quadruplex stabilizing small molecule GQC-05 induces down regulated MYC expression and DNA damage in AML cells. Treatment with both GQC-05 with a Bcl-2/Bcl-XL inhibitor Navitoclax results in increased cytotoxic activity, which is more pronounced than Navitoclax or GQC-05 alone, and more significant than Navitoclax in combination with cytarabine and doxorubicin that are currently being used clinically.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research