Identification of Drug Combinations Containing Imatinib for Treatment of BCR-ABL+ Leukemias

Abstract

<div><p>The BCR-ABL translocation is found in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and in Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients. Although imatinib and its analogues have been used as front-line therapy to target this mutation and control the disease for over a decade, resistance to the therapy is still observed and most patients are not cured but need to continue the therapy indefinitely. It is therefore of great importance to find new therapies, possibly as drug combinations, which can overcome drug resistance. In this study, we identified eleven candidate anti-leukemic drugs that might be combined with imatinib, using three approaches: a kinase inhibitor library screen, a gene expression correlation analysis, and literature analysis. We then used an experimental search algorithm to efficiently explore the large space of possible drug and dose combinations and identified drug combinations that selectively kill a BCR-ABL+ leukemic cell line (K562) over a normal fibroblast cell line (IMR-90). Only six iterations of the algorithm were needed to identify very selective drug combinations. The efficacy of the top forty-nine combinations was further confirmed using Ph+ and Ph- ALL patient cells, including imatinib-resistant cells. Collectively, the drug combinations and methods we describe might be a first step towards more effective interventions for leukemia patients, especially those with the BCR-ABL translocation.</p></div

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