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Leukemia. 2012 Jun;26(6):1277-85. doi: 10.1038/leu.2012.2. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

GSK3 is a regulator of RAR-mediated differentiation.

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Department of Pathology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of leukemia in adults. Unfortunately, the standard therapeutic agents used for this disease have high toxicities and poor efficacy. The one exception to these poor outcomes is the use of the retinoid, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), for a rare subtype of AML (APL). The use of the differentiation agent, ATRA, in combination with low-dose chemotherapy leads to the long-term survival and presumed cure of 75-85% of patients. Unfortunately ATRA has not been clinically useful for other subtypes of AML. Though many non-APL leukemic cells respond to ATRA, they require significantly higher concentrations of ATRA for effective differentiation. Here we show that the combination of ATRA with glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) inhibition significantly enhances ATRA-mediated AML differentiation and growth inhibition. These studies have revealed that ATRA's receptor, the retinoic acid receptor (RAR), is a novel target of GSK3 phosphorylation and that GSK3 can impact the expression and transcriptional activity of the RAR. Overall, our studies suggest the clinical potential of ATRA and GSK3 inhibition for AML and provide a mechanistic framework to explain the promising activity of this combination regimen.

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