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Core Evid. 2013;8:15-26. doi: 10.2147/CE.S42568. Epub 2013 Mar 14.

An evidence-based review of obatoclax mesylate in the treatment of hematological malignancies.

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Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Ontario Cancer Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Obatoclax mesylate is an intravenously-administered drug under investigation in Phase I and II clinical trials as a novel anticancer therapeutic for hematological malignancies and solid tumors. Obatoclax was developed as a pan-inhibitor of antiapoptotic members of the B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia/lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) family of proteins, which control the intrinsic or mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. Resistance to apoptosis through dysregulation of BCL-2 family members is commonly observed in hematological malignancies, and can be linked to therapeutic resistance and poor clinical outcomes. By inhibiting pro-survival BCL-2 family proteins, including MCL-1, obatoclax is proposed to (1) trigger cell death as a single agent, and (2) potentiate the anticancer effects of other therapeutics. Preclinical investigations have supported these proposals and have provided evidence suggestive of a promising therapeutic index for this drug. Phase I trials of obatoclax mesylate in leukemia and lymphoma have defined well-tolerated regimens and have identified transient neurotoxicity as the most common adverse effect of this drug. In these studies, a limited number of objective responses were observed, along with hematological improvement in a larger proportion of treated patients. Published Phase II evaluations in lymphoma and myelofibrosis, however, have not reported robust single-agent activity. Emerging evidence from ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations suggests that the full potential of obatoclax mesylate as a novel anticancer agent may be realized (1) in rational combination treatments, and (2) when guided by molecular predictors of therapeutic response. By understanding the molecular underpinnings of obatoclax response, along with optimal therapeutic regimens and indications, the potential of obatoclax mesylate for the treatment of hematological malignancies may be further clarified.


BCL-2; BH3 mimetic; leukemia; lymphoma; myelofibrosis; obatoclax

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