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Blood. 2007 Feb 15;109(4):1643-52. Epub 2006 Oct 17.

Prolonged exposure to FLT3 inhibitors leads to resistance via activation of parallel signaling pathways.

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  • 1Department of Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA.


Continuous treatment of malignancies with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) may select for resistant clones (ie, imatinib mesylate). To study resistance to TKIs targeting FLT3, a receptor tyrosine kinase that is frequently mutated in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), we developed resistant human cell lines through prolonged coculture with FLT3 TKIs. FLT3 TKI-resistant cell lines and primary samples still exhibit inhibition of FLT3 phosphorylation on FLT3 TKI treatment. However, FLT3 TKI-resistant cell lines and primary samples often show continued activation of downstream PI3K/Akt and/or Ras/MEK/MAPK signaling pathways as well as continued expression of genes involved in FLT3-mediated cellular transformation. Inhibition of these signaling pathways restores partial sensitivity to FLT3 TKIs. Mutational screening of FLT3 TKI-resistant cell lines revealed activating N-Ras mutations in 2 cell lines that were not present in the parental FLT3 TKI-sensitive cell line. Taken together, these data indicate that FLT3 TKI-resistant cells most frequently become FLT3 independent because of activation of parallel signaling pathways that provide compensatory survival/proliferation signals when FLT3 is inhibited. Anti-FLT3 mAb treatment was still cytotoxic to FLT3 TKI-resistant clones. An approach combining FLT3 TKIs with anti-FLT3 antibodies and/or inhibitors of important pathways downstream of FLT3 may reduce the chances of developing resistance.

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