Ibrutinib inhibits pre-BCR(+) B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia progression by targeting BTK and BLK.

PMID 28031181


Targeting B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling is a successful therapeutic strategy in mature B-cell malignancies. Precursor BCR (pre-BCR) signaling, which is critical during normal B lymphopoiesis, also plays an important role in pre-BCR(+) B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). Here, we investigated the activity and mechanism of action of the BTK inhibitor ibrutinib in preclinical models of B-ALL. Pre-BCR(+) ALL cells were exquisitely sensitive to ibrutinib at therapeutically relevant drug concentrations. In pre-BCR(+) ALL, ibrutinib thwarted autonomous and induced pre-BCR signaling, resulting in deactivation of PI3K/Akt signaling. Ibrutinib modulated the expression of pre-BCR regulators (PTPN6, CD22, CD72, and PKCβ) and substantially reduced BCL6 levels. Ibrutinib inhibited ALL cell migration toward CXCL12 and beneath marrow stromal cells and reduced CD44 expression. CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing revealed that both BTK and B lymphocyte kinase (BLK) are relevant targets of ibrutinib in pre-BCR(+) ALL. Consequently, in mouse xenograft models of pre-BCR(+) ALL, ibrutinib treatment significantly prolonged survival. Combination treatment of ibrutinib with dexamethasone or vincristine demonstrated synergistic activity against pre-BCR(+) ALL. These data corroborate ibrutinib as a promising targeted agent for pre-BCR(+) ALL and highlight the importance of ibrutinib effects on alternative kinase targets.