The BCR-ABL oncoprotein of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) localizes to the cell cytoplasm, where it activates proliferative and antiapoptotic signaling pathways. We previously reported that the combination of the ABL kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate (IM) and the nuclear export inhibitor leptomycin B (LMB) traps BCR-ABL inside the nucleus, triggering the death of the leukemic cells. To evaluate the efficacy of the combination of IM and LMB on human cells we collected CD34-positive cells from 6 healthy donors and myeloid progenitors from 35 patients with CML. The sequential addition of IM and LMB generated the strongest reduction in the proliferative potential of the leukemic cells, with limited toxicity to normal myeloid precursors. Furthermore, nested reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis on colonies representative of each experimental condition demonstrated that the combination of IM and LMB was the most effective regimen in reducing the number of BCR-ABL-positive colonies. The efficacy of the 2-drug association was independent of the clinical characteristics of the patients. Our results indicate that strategies aimed at the nuclear entrapment of BCR-ABL efficiently kill human leukemic cells, suggesting that the clinical development of this approach could be of significant therapeutic value for newly diagnosed and IM-resistant CML patients.
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