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Dis Model Mech. 2019 Sep 16;12(9). pii: dmm040931. doi: 10.1242/dmm.040931.

Therapeutic targeting of Notch signaling and immune checkpoint blockade in a spontaneous, genetically heterogeneous mouse model of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Tarrytown, New York, NY 10591, USA.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Tarrytown, New York, NY 10591, USA


T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematologic cancer derived from the malignant transformation of T-cell progenitors. Outcomes remain poor for T-ALL patients who have either primary resistance to standard-of-care chemotherapy or disease relapse. Notably, there are currently no targeted therapies available in T-ALL. This lack of next-generation therapies highlights the need for relevant preclinical disease modeling to identify and validate new targets and treatment approaches. Here, we adapted a spontaneously arising, genetically heterogeneous, thymic transplantation-based murine model of T-ALL, recapitulating key histopathological and genetic features of the human disease, to the preclinical testing of targeted and immune-directed therapies. Genetic engineering of the murine Notch1 locus aligned the spectrum of Notch1 mutations in the mouse model to that of human T-ALL and confirmed aberrant, recombination-activating gene (RAG)-mediated 5' Notch1 recombination events as the preferred pathway in murine T-ALL development. Testing of Notch1-targeting therapeutic antibodies demonstrated T-ALL sensitivity to different classes of Notch1 blockers based on Notch1 mutational status. In contrast, genetic ablation of Notch3 did not impact T-ALL development. The T-ALL model was further applied to the testing of immunotherapeutic agents in fully immunocompetent, syngeneic mice. In line with recent clinical experience in T-cell malignancies, programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) blockade alone lacked anti-tumor activity against murine T-ALL tumors. Overall, the unique features of the spontaneous T-ALL model coupled with genetic manipulations and the application to therapeutic testing in immunocompetent backgrounds will be of great utility for the preclinical evaluation of novel therapies against T-ALL.


Immunotherapy; Notch1; PD-1 blockade; T-ALL; Targeted therapy

Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsAll authors are employees of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

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