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Exp Hematol. 2013 Aug;41(8):719-30. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 May 3.

Mechanistic studies on the synergistic cytotoxicity of the nucleoside analogs gemcitabine and clofarabine in multiple myeloma: relevance of p53 and its clinical implications.

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Departments of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is an established treatment for multiple myeloma (MM), a plasma cell malignancy. To identify an improved pretransplant conditioning regimen, we investigated the cytotoxicity of gemcitabine (Gem) and clofarabine (Clo) combinations toward MM cell lines and patient cell samples. A strong synergism of the two nucleoside analogs, when combined at their approximate IC10 concentrations, was observed. This synergism could be partly due to the observed Gem-mediated phosphorylation and activation of deoxycytidine kinase, resulting in enhanced phosphorylation of Gem and Clo. Their cytotoxicity correlated with a robust activation of the DNA damage response pathway. [Gem+Clo] decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential with a concomitant release of proapoptotic factors into the cytoplasm and nucleus and the activation of apoptosis. Exposure of MM cells to [Gem+Clo] also decreased the level of ribosomal RNA (rRNA), which might have resulted in nucleolar stress, as reported previously, and caused a p53-dependent cell death. A reduction by approximately 50% in the cytotoxicity of Gem and Clo was observed in the presence of pifithrin α, a p53 inhibitor. Furthermore, MM cell lines with mutant p53 exhibited greater resistance to Gem and Clo, supporting a role for the p53 protein in these cytotoxic responses. Our results provide a rationale for clinical trials incorporating [Gem+Clo] combinations as part of conditioning therapy for high-risk patients with MM undergoing HSCT.

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