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Mol Cancer Ther. 2014 May;13(5):1142-54. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-13-0770. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

Highly active combination of BRD4 antagonist and histone deacetylase inhibitor against human acute myelogenous leukemia cells.

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Authors' Affiliations: Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston, Texas; Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.


The bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) protein family members, including BRD4, bind to acetylated lysines on histones and regulate the expression of important oncogenes, for example, c-MYC and BCL2. Here, we demonstrate the sensitizing effects of the histone hyperacetylation-inducing pan-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor panobinostat on human acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) blast progenitor cells (BPC) to the BET protein antagonist JQ1. Treatment with JQ1, but not its inactive enantiomer (R-JQ1), was highly lethal against AML BPCs expressing mutant NPM1c+ with or without coexpression of FLT3-ITD or AML expressing mixed lineage leukemia fusion oncoprotein. JQ1 treatment reduced binding of BRD4 and RNA polymerase II to the DNA of c-MYC and BCL2 and reduced their levels in the AML cells. Cotreatment with JQ1 and the HDAC inhibitor panobinostat synergistically induced apoptosis of the AML BPCs, but not of normal CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitor cells. This was associated with greater attenuation of c-MYC and BCL2, while increasing p21, BIM, and cleaved PARP levels in the AML BPCs. Cotreatment with JQ1 and panobinostat significantly improved the survival of the NOD/SCID mice engrafted with OCI-AML3 or MOLM13 cells (P < 0.01). These findings highlight cotreatment with a BRD4 antagonist and an HDAC inhibitor as a potentially efficacious therapy of AML.

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