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Blood. 2019 Jan 3;133(1):70-80. doi: 10.1182/blood-2018-08-872465. Epub 2018 Oct 15.

Targeted inhibition of PI3Kα/δ is synergistic with BCL-2 blockade in genetically defined subtypes of DLBCL.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA; and.
Department of Experimental Hematology, Institute of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine, Warsaw, Poland.


Inhibition of the B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling pathway is a promising treatment strategy in multiple B-cell malignancies. However, the role of BCR blockade in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) remains undefined. We recently characterized primary DLBCL subsets with distinct genetic bases for perturbed BCR/phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling and dysregulated B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) expression. Herein, we explore the activity of PI3K inhibitors and BCL-2 blockade in a panel of functionally and genetically characterized DLBCL cell line models. A PI3K inhibitor with predominant α/δ activity, copanlisib, exhibited the highest cytotoxicity in all BCR-dependent DLBCLs. The proapoptotic effect of copanlisib was associated with DLBCL subtype-specific dysregulated expression of BCL-2 family members including harakiri (HRK) and its antiapoptotic partner BCL extra large (BCL-xL), BCL2 related protein A1, myeloid cell leukemia 1 (MCL-1), and BCL2 interacting mediator of cell death. Using functional BH3 profiling, we found that the cytotoxic activity of copanlisib was primarily mediated through BCL-xL and MCL-1-dependent mechanisms that might complement BCL-2 blockade. For these reasons, we evaluated single-agent activity of venetoclax in the DLBCLs and identified a subset with limited sensitivity to BCL-2 blockade despite having genetic bases of BCL-2 dysregulation. As these were largely BCR-dependent DLBCLs, we hypothesized that combined inhibition of PI3Kα/δ and BCL-2 would perturb BCR-dependent and BCL-2-mediated survival pathways. Indeed, we observed synergistic activity of copanlisib/venetoclax in BCR-dependent DLBCLs with genetic bases for BCL-2 dysregulation in vitro and confirmed these findings in a xenograft model. These results provide preclinical evidence for the rational combination of PI3Kα/δ and BCL-2 blockade in genetically defined DLBCLs.

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