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J Clin Invest. 1997 Jan 15;99(2):349-60.

Synergistic decrease of clonal proliferation, induction of differentiation, and apoptosis of acute promyelocytic leukemia cells after combined treatment with novel 20-epi vitamin D3 analogs and 9-cis retinoic acid.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, 90048, USA.


Patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) usually relapse after all-trans retinoic acid (RA) treatment because this therapy fails to eradicate the malignant clone. Our data showed that KH 1060 and other 20-epi vitamin D3 analogs alone were potent inhibitors of clonal growth of NB4 cells, an APL cell line (ED50, approximately 5 x 10(-11) M). The combination of KH 1060 and 9-cis-RA synergistically and irreversibly enhanced this effect. Neither KH 1060 nor 9-cis-RA (10(-6) M, 3 d) were strong inducers of differentiation of NB4 cells. However, 98% of the cells underwent differentiation to a mature phenotype with features of both granulocytes and monocytes after exposure to a combination of both compounds. Apoptosis only increased after incubation of NB4 cells with 9-cis-RA alone (28%) or with a combination of 9-cis-RA plus KH1060 (32%). Immunohistochemistry showed that the bcl-2 protein decreased from nearly 100% of the wild-type NB4 cells to 2% after incubation with a combination of KH 1060 and 9-cis-RA, and the bax protein increased from 50% of wild-type NB4 cells to 92% after culture with both analogs (5 x 10(-7) M, 3 d). Western blot analysis paralleled these results. Studies of APL cells from one untreated individual paralleled our results with NB4 cells. Taken together, the data demonstrated that nearly all of the NB4 cells can be irreversibly induced to differentiate terminally when exposed to the combination of KH 1060 and 9-cis-RA.

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