Background: Therapy with proteasome inhibitors (PIs) is an effective strategy against multiple myeloma (MM), but a significant proportion of patients is primarily resistant or eventually becomes refractory. Paradoxical activation of phospho-Akt, induction of HSP27 and excessive proteasome activity in relation to polyubiquitinated protein burden are all mechanisms for bortezomib resistance in MM cells in vitro. Preclinical data showed investigational drug MLN9708, a specific, reversible, orally bioavailable, small molecule PI, to be active in MM cell lines, patient cells and mouse models and is currently under clinical investigation. We compared the signaling pathways induced by MLN2238, the biologically active form of MLN9708, and bortezomib to outline differences that could be employed to design rational combinations to overcome resistance. Results: We performed time course experiments in MM.1S cells with EC50 doses of MLN2238 and bortezomib and analyzed signaling pathways via western blotting. Compared to bortezomib, MLN2238 induced earlier cleavage of caspase 8, 9, 3 and PARP and a significant downregulation of XIAP starting at 12 hours. Early and persistent phosphorylation of Bad, known to protect from mitochondrial apoptosis, was observed in bortezomib-, but not MLN2238-treated cells, in which phospho-Bad was reduced at 24 hours. Similarly, MLN2238 decreased phosphorylated Akt and mTOR at 24 hours, while bortezomib-treated cells only showed subtle changes. Interestingly, both drugs caused downregulation of the mTOR downstream targets phospho-p70 S6 kinase and phospho-4E-BP1, albeit of different intensity. Induction of heat shock proteins was comparable with both PI, opening the possibilities for combination therapy of MLN2238 with HSP90 inhibitors. Importantly, the inhibitory effect on phosphorylation of Akt, mTOR and Bad persisted when MM.1S cells were treated with MLN2238 in the presence of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC). Conclusion: We observed differences in several crucial signaling pathways upon treatment of MM.1S cells with bortezomib or MLN2238. In particular, treatment with the latter inhibited phosphorylation of Bad, Akt and mTOR, suggesting a broader pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative profile, compared to bortezomib. MLN2238 retained the capability of targeting these substrates also in the presence of BMSC. Confirmatory data on patient-derived cells are under current investigation in our lab. We believe that these data help understanding the differences in PI pharmacodynamics and bortezomib escape. This will allow us to design new drug combinations in the future that overcome clinical resistance to PIs and improve MM patient survival.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 103rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2012 Mar 31-Apr 4; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2012;72(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 5669. doi:1538-7445.AM2012-5669