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Oncogene. 2013 Apr 4;32(14):1784-93. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.203. Epub 2012 May 28.

Targeting abnormal DNA double-strand break repair in tyrosine kinase inhibitor-resistant chronic myeloid leukemias.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Resistance to imatinib (IM) and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI)s is an increasing problem in leukemias caused by expression of BCR-ABL1. As chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cell lines expressing BCR-ABL1 utilize an alternative non-homologous end-joining pathway (ALT NHEJ) to repair DNA double-strand breaks (DSB)s, we asked whether this repair pathway is a novel therapeutic target in TKI-resistant disease. Notably, the steady state levels of two ALT NHEJ proteins, poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) and DNA ligase IIIα, were increased in the BCR-ABL1-positive CML cell line K562 and, to a greater extent, in its imatinib-resistant (IMR) derivative. Incubation of these cell lines with a combination of DNA ligase and PARP inhibitors inhibited ALT NHEJ and selectively decreased survival with the effect being greater in the IMR derivative. Similar results were obtained with TKI-resistant derivatives of two hematopoietic cell lines that had been engineered to stably express BCR-ABL1. Together our results show that the sensitivity of cell lines expressing BCR-ABL1 to the combination of DNA ligase and PARP inhibitors correlates with the steady state levels of PARP1 and DNA ligase IIIα, and ALT NHEJ activity. Importantly, analysis of clinical samples from CML patients confirmed that the expression levels of PARP1 and DNA ligase IIIα correlated with the sensitivity to the DNA repair inhibitor combination. Thus, the expression levels of PARP1 and DNA ligase IIIα serve as biomarkers to identify a subgroup of CML patients who may be candidates for therapies that target the ALT NHEJ pathway when treatment with TKIs has failed.

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