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Effects of concurrent inhibition of mTORC1/2 and Bcl-2/Bcl-xL in human acute myeloid leukemia cells were examined. Tetracycline-inducible Bcl-2/Bcl-xL dual knockdown markedly sensitized acute myeloid leukemia cells to the dual TORC1/2 inhibitor INK128 in vitro as well as in vivo. Moreover, INK128 co-administered with the Bcl-2/xL antagonist ABT-737 sharply induced cell death in multiple acute myeloid leukemia cell lines, including TKI-resistant FLT3-ITD mutants and primary acute myeloid leukemia blasts carrying various genetic aberrations e.g., FLT3, IDH2, NPM1, and Kras, while exerting minimal toxicity toward normal hematopoietic CD34+ cells. Combined treatment was particularly active against CD34+/CD38−/CD123+ primitive leukemic progenitor cells. The INK128/ABT-737 regimen was also effective in the presence of a protective stromal microenvironment. Notably, INK128 was more potent than the TORC1 inhibitor rapamycin in down-regulating Mcl-1, diminishing AKT and 4EBP1 phosphorylation, and potentiating ABT-737 activity. Mcl-1 ectopic expression dramatically attenuated INK128/ABT-737 lethality, indicating an important functional role for Mcl-1 down-regulation in INK128/ABT-737 actions. Immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that combined treatment markedly diminished Bax, Bak, and Bim binding to all major anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 members (Bcl-2/Bcl-xL/Mcl-1), while Bax/Bak knockdown reduced cell death. Finally, INK128/ABT-737 co-administration sharply attenuated leukemia growth and significantly prolonged survival in a systemic acute myeloid leukemia xenograft model. Analysis of subcutaneous acute myeloid leukemia-derived tumors revealed significant decrease in 4EBP1 phosphorylation and Mcl-1 protein level, consistent with results obtained in vitro. These findings demonstrate that co-administration of dual mTORC1/mTORC2 inhibitors and BH3-mimetics exhibits potent anti-leukemic activity in vitro and in vivo, arguing that this strategy warrants attention in acute myeloid leukemia.
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