Oncogene-independent resistance in Philadelphia chromosome - positive (Ph +) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is mediated by activation of AKT/mTOR pathway

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as imatinib, nilotinib, dasatinib, and ponatinib have significantly improved the life expectancy of Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) patients; however, resistance to TKIs remains a major clinical challenge. Point mutations in the tyrosine kinase domain (TKD) of BCR-ABL1 have emerged as the predominant cause of acquired resistance. In approximately 30% of patients, the mechanism of resistance to TKIs remains elusive. This study aimed to investigate mechanisms of nonmutational resistance in Ph+ ALL. Here we report the development of a nonmutational resistance cell line SupB15-RT; conferring resistance to approved ABL kinase inhibitors (AKIs) and allosteric inhibitors GNF-2, ABL001, and crizotinib, except for dasatinib (IC90 50nM), a multitarget kinase inhibitor. We found that the AKT/mTOR pathway is activated in these cells and their proliferation inhibited by Torin-1 with an IC50 of 24.7 nM. These observations were confirmed using 3 different ALL patient-derived long term cultures (PDLTCs): (1) HP (BCR-ABL1 negative), (2) PH (BCR-ABL1 positive and responsive to TKIs) and (3) BV (BCR-ABL1 positive and nonmutational resistant to TKIs). Furthermore, Torin-1 and NVP-BEZ235 induced apoptosis in PH and BV cells but not in HP cells. Our experiments provide evidence of the involvement of AKT/mTOR pathway in the evolution of nonmutational resistance in Ph+ ALL which will assist in developing novel targeted therapy for Ph+ ALL patients with BCR-ABL1 independent nonmutational resistance.

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