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Haematologica. 2019 May;104(5):973-985. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2018.199661. Epub 2018 Nov 22.

The small-molecule compound AC-73 targeting CD147 inhibits leukemic cell proliferation, induces autophagy and increases the chemotherapeutic sensitivity of acute myeloid leukemia cells.

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National Center for Drug Research and Evaluation, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome.
Core Facilities, Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
Department of Oncology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Rome, Italy.
National Center for Drug Research and Evaluation, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome


CD147 is a transmembrane glycoprotein with multiple functions in human healthy tissues and diseases, in particular in cancer. Overexpression of CD147 correlates with biological functions that promote tumor progression and confers resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. In contrast to solid tumors, the role of CD147 has not been extensively studied in leukemia. Understanding whether CD147 represents a new hematologic target and whether its inhibitor AC-73 may be used in leukemia therapy may reveal an alternative treatment strategy in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We analyzed CD147 expression and function in hematopoietic progenitor cells from normal cord blood, in several leukemic cell lines and in primary leukemic blasts obtained from patients with AML. We investigated the effects of AC-73, used alone or in combination with arabinosylcytosine (Ara-C) and arsenic trioxide (ATO), on leukemic cell proliferation. We demonstrated that CD147 overexpression promotes leukemic cell proliferation. We showed that AC-73 exhibits a potent growth inhibitory activity in leukemic cells, by inhibiting the ERK/STAT3 activation pathway and activating autophagy. We demonstrated that AC-73 exerts an anti-proliferative effect additive to chemotherapy by enhancing leukemic cell sensitivity to Ara-C-induced cytotoxicity or to ATO-induced autophagy. We also reported CD147 expression in the fraction of leukemic blasts expressing CD371, a marker of leukemic stem cells. Altogether, our study indicates CD147 as a novel potential target in the treatment of AML and AC-73 as an anti-proliferative drug and an inducer of autophagy in leukemic cells to use in combination with chemotherapeutic agents.

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