Background: PI3Kδ is expressed in B cells and has a central role in the B-cell receptor signaling. Copanlisib is a highly selective PI3Kδ and PI3Kα inhibitor, and it is currently under clinical development in indolent lymphomas including marginal zone lymphoma (MZL). Copanlisib is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma. Nevertheless, a subset of patients can eventually relapse due to acquired resistance. A better understanding of resistance mechanisms could help to design improved therapies; hence, we generated MZL cell lines resistant to copanlisib.

Materials and Methods: Cells were kept on copanlisib (IC90) until acquisition of resistance (RES) or with no drug (parental, PAR). Stable resistance was confirmed by MTT assay after 3 weeks of drug-free culture. Multidrug resistance phenotype was ruled out by confirming sensitivity to vincristine. Cells underwent transcriptome profiling (RNA-Seq) and immunophenotypic analysis.

Results: The RES models were obtained from VL51 cell line with over 50-fold times higher IC50s than PAR counterparts. Of note, the copanlisib-resistant lines showed decreased sensitivity to other PI3K inhibitors such as duvelisib (50-fold) and idelalisib (5-fold) and to the BTK inhibitor ibrutinib (15-fold), suggesting that the mechanism observed here might drive resistance to other downstream B-cell receptor inhibitors. Gene expression profiles of RES showed the upregulation of cytokine signaling (IL1A, IL1B, CXCR4), NFkB (LTA, TNF), MAPK (RASGRP4, RASGRP2), and JAK-STAT (STAT3, JAK3) signaling pathways and negative regulators of apoptosis (CD44, JUN). Conversely, repressed genes in RES were involved in cell adhesion (ITGA4, ITGB1), antigen presentation (HLAs), and IFN response (PARP12, GBP6). Consistent with the overexpression of antiapoptotic signaling genes, RES cells exhibited also resistance to the BCL2-inhibitor venetoclax, either as a single as in combination with copanlisib. Flow cytometry confirmed the CXCR4 upregulation and the downregulation of CD49d (ITGA4), paired with reduced CD20 and CD81 surface expression. In accordance, addition of a CXCR4 inhibitor overcame resistance to copanlisib.

Conclusions: We created a model of secondary resistance to the PI3K inhibitor copanlisib, derived from an MZL cell line. This model will help in clarifying mechanisms of resistance to the drug and to evaluate alternative therapeutic approaches. Indeed, we already identified novel potential targets, such as IL1 and CXCR4, that might be exploited in overcoming resistance to copanlisib and are worthy of further investigation.

Citation Format: Alberto J. Arribas, Sara Napoli, Luciano Cascione, Eugenio Gaudio, Roberta Bordone-Pittau, Marilia Barreca, Giulio Sartori, Chiara Tarantelli, Filippo Spriano, Andrea Rinaldi, Anastasios Stathis, Georg Stussi, Davide Rossi, Emanuele Zucca, Francesco Bertoni. Mechanisms of resistance to the PI3K inhibitor copanlisib in marginal zone lymphoma [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Virtual Meeting: Advances in Malignant Lymphoma; 2020 Aug 17-19. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Blood Cancer Discov 2020;1(3_Suppl):Abstract nr PO-46.