A novel hypoxia-selective epigenetic agent RRx-001 triggers apoptosis and overcomes drug resistance in multiple myeloma cells

The hypoxic bone marrow (BM) microenvironment confers growth/survival and drug resistance in multiple myeloma (MM) cells. Novel therapies targeting the MM cell in its hypoxic BM milieu may overcome drug resistance. Recent studies led to the development of a novel molecule RRx-001 with hypoxia-selective epigenetic and nitric oxide-donating properties. Here, we demonstrate that RRx-001 decreases the viability of MM cell lines and primary patient cells, as well as overcomes drug resistance. RRx-001 inhibits MM cell growth in the presence of BM stromal cells. RRx-001-induced apoptosis is associated with: (i) activation of caspases; (ii) release of ROS and nitrogen species; (iii) induction of DNA damage via ATM/γ-H2AX; and (iv) decrease in DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) and global methylation. RNA interference study shows a predominant role of DNMT1 in MM cell survival versus DNMT3a or DNMT3b. The deubiquitylating enzyme USP7 stimulates DNMT1 activity, and conversely, USP7-siRNA reduced DNMT1 activity and decreased MM cell viability. RRx-001 plus USP7 inhibitor P5091 triggered synergistic anti-MM activity. MM xenograft studies show that RRx-001 is well tolerated, inhibits tumor growth and enhances survival. Combining RRx-001 with pomalidomide, bortezomib or SAHA induces synergistic anti-MM activity. Our results provide the rationale for translation of RRx-001, either alone or in combination, to clinical evaluation in MM.

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