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Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Mar 1;15(5):1686-97. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2141. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

Triptolide inhibits Bcr-Abl transcription and induces apoptosis in STI571-resistant chronic myelogenous leukemia cells harboring T315I mutation.

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Department of Pathophysiology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.



Resistance to STI571 is an emerging problem for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Mutation in the kinase domain of Bcr-Abl is the predominant mechanism of the acquired resistance to STI571. In the present study, we investigated the effect of triptolide on cell survival or apoptosis in CML cells bearing Bcr-Abl-T315I or wild-type Bcr-Abl.


CML cell lines (KBM5 versus KBM5-T315I, BaF3-Bcr-Abl versus BaF3-Bcr-Abl-T315I) and primary cells from CML patients with clinical resistance to STI571 were treated with triptolide, and analyzed in terms of growth, apoptosis, and signal transduction. Nude mouse xenograft model was also used to evaluate the antitumor activity.


Triptolide potently down-regulated the mRNA and protein levels of Bcr-Abl independently of the caspase or proteosome activation in CML cells. It induced mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis in Bcr-Abl-T315I CML cells and primary cells from CML patients with clinical resistance to STI571. Additionally, triptolide inhibited the growth of STI571-sensitive KBM5 and STI571-resistant KBM5-T315I CML cells in nude mouse xenografts. Triptolide also down-regulated the expression of survivin, Mcl-1, and Akt in CML cells, which suggests that it may have multiple targets.


These findings suggest that triptolide is a promising agent to overcome STI571-resistant CML cells, and warrant a clinical trial of triptolide derivatives for CML with Bcr-Abl-T315I mutation.

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