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Oncogene. 2019 Apr;38(17):3288-3300. doi: 10.1038/s41388-018-0670-9. Epub 2019 Jan 10.

Wnt5a and ROR1 activate non-canonical Wnt signaling via RhoA in TCF3-PBX1 acute lymphoblastic leukemia and highlight new treatment strategies via Bcl-2 co-targeting.

Author information

1
BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland.
2
Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), Helsinki Institute of Life Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
3
BioMediTech Institute and Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland. daniela.ungureanu@tuni.fi.

Abstract

B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) with TCF3-PBX1 fusion gene expression has constitutively elevated levels of Wnt16b and ROR1 (receptor tyrosine kinase-like orphan receptor), a ligand and a receptor from the Wnt signaling pathway, respectively. Although survival rate is usually high after the initial chemotherapy, many TCF3-PBX1 BCP-ALL patients relapse and subsequently develop treatment resistance, resulting in poor prognosis. Here, we aimed to investigate the molecular signaling associated with Wnt16b and ROR1 overexpression in TCF3-PBX1 cell lines and primary samples, and to identify effective treatment options via ROR1 targeting. We detected higher ROR1 expression on TCF3-PBX1 leukemic cells even at a later stage of patient relapse, providing a strong rationale for the use of ROR1-targeted therapy. We found that Wnt5a-ROR1 signaling enhances proliferation of TCF3-PBX1 cells via RhoA/Rac1 GTPases activation and STAT3 upregulation. Wnt16b also activated the RhoA/Rac1 signaling cascade suggesting the activation of a non-canonical Wnt pathway in TCF3-PBX1 cells. Wnt16 could interact with ROR1 but not in TCF3-PBX1 cells, suggesting that Wnt5a is the ligand signaling via ROR1 in TCF3-PBX1 cells. By high throughput drug-sensitivity testing of TCF3-PBX1 cells before and after ROR1 knockdown we found that targeting ROR1 significantly improves the therapeutic efficacy of Bcl-2 family inhibitors venetoclax and navitoclax, and this synergism was confirmed ex vivo using a drug-resistant primary sample from a relapsed TCF3-PBX1 patient. Our work underlines a new type of targeted combination therapy that could be clinically advantageous for patients with TCF3-PBX1 BCP-ALL.

PMID:
30631148
DOI:
10.1038/s41388-018-0670-9
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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