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Blood Cancer J. 2013 Jul 19;3:e126. doi: 10.1038/bcj.2013.24.

BET inhibition as a single or combined therapeutic approach in primary paediatric B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

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School of Cancer Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


Paediatric B-precursor ALL is a highly curable disease, however, treatment resistance in some patients and the long-term toxic effects of current therapies pose the need for more targeted therapeutic approaches. We addressed the cytotoxic effect of JQ1, a highly selective inhibitor against the transcriptional regulators, bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) family of proteins, in paediatric ALL. We showed a potent in vitro cytotoxic response of a panel of primary ALL to JQ1, independent of their prognostic features but dependent on high MYC expression and coupled with transcriptional downregulation of multiple pro-survival pathways. In agreement with earlier studies, JQ1 induced cell cycle arrest. Here we show that BET inhibition also reduced c-Myc protein stability and suppressed progression of DNA replication forks in ALL cells. Consistent with c-Myc depletion and downregulation of pro-survival pathways JQ1 sensitised primary ALL samples to the classic ALL therapeutic agent dexamethasone. Finally, we demonstrated that JQ1 reduces ALL growth in ALL xenograft models, both as a single agent and in combination with dexamethasone. We conclude that targeting BET proteins should be considered as a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of paediatric ALL and particularly those cases that exhibit suboptimal responses to standard treatment.

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