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Resistance to chemotherapy is a major problem in cancer treatment, and it is frequently associated with failure of tumor cells to undergo apoptosis. Birinapant, a clinical SMAC mimetic, had been designed to mimic the interaction between inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) and SMAC/Diablo, thereby relieving IAP-mediated caspase inhibition and promoting apoptosis of cancer cells. We show that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells are sensitive to birinapant-induced death and that the clinical caspase inhibitor emricasan/IDN-6556 augments, rather than prevents, killing by birinapant. Deletion of caspase-8 sensitized AML to birinapant, whereas combined loss of caspase-8 and the necroptosis effector MLKL (mixed lineage kinase domain-like) prevented birinapant/IDN-6556-induced death, showing that inhibition of caspase-8 sensitizes AML cells to birinapant-induced necroptosis. However, loss of MLKL alone did not prevent a caspase-dependent birinapant/IDN-6556-induced death, implying that AML will be less likely to acquire resistance to this drug combination. A therapeutic breakthrough in AML has eluded researchers for decades. Demonstrated antileukemic efficacy and safety of the birinapant/emricasan combination in vivo suggest that induction of necroptosis warrants clinical investigation as a therapeutic opportunity in AML.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/scitranslmed.aad3099

Type

Journal article

Journal

Sci Transl Med

Volume

8

Keywords

Apoptosis, Caspase 8, Caspase Inhibitors, Cell Line, Tumor, Dipeptides, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Drug Synergism, Humans, Indoles, Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute, Necrosis, Pentanoic Acids, Tumor Cells, Cultured