Background: Molecular studies divide DLBCL into three subtypes with distinct pathogenesis and clinical outcomes: activated B-cell (ABC), germinal center B-cell (GCB) and primary mediastinal lymphoma (PML). Florescence in situ hybridization (FISH) studies identified another subgroup of DLBCL, classified as DH-DLBCL, with a poor clinical outcome harboring concurrent gene rearrangements of the c-MYC, BCL2 and/or BCL6 proto-oncogenes, resulting in the over-expression of c-Myc, Bcl2 and Bcl6 proteins. Previously, our retrospective review from single institution series revealed that 30 out of 611 DLBCL patients had aberrations in c-MYC and BCL2 or BCL6 by FISH. These patients exhibited inferior response rates (RR) to rituximab-based chemotherapy, and a shorter progression-free survival (PFS)/overall survival (OS), suggesting that newer therapies are in dire need. DH-DLBCL is characterized by de-regulation of apoptosis and cell cycle progression, resulting in rapid cellular proliferation and resistance to apoptotic stimuli. In ABC-DLBCL, anti-apoptotic factor MCL-1 is implicated in poor prognosis leading to resistance to standard chemotherapy. C-MYC transcriptionally upregulates Mcl1. Translocation of c-MYC in DH-DLBCL may contribute to the aggressive phenotype and chemotherapy resistance via the MCL-1 pathway. We hypothesize that dual inhibition of both anti-apoptotic proteins BCL2 and MCL1 is an effective strategy in inducing lymphoma cell death in DH-DLBCL.

Materials & Methods: At the pre-clinical level, we studied 3 novel therapeutic agents targeting BCL2 (ABT-199), c-MYC (JQ-1), and various cell cycle regulatory proteins (p21) and other BCL2 family members affecting ABT-199 activity (irreversible proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib(CFZ)) using DH lymphoma (DHL) cell lines (Val, DOHH-2, ROS-50). DHL cell lines were exposed to ABT-199 (0-10 uM), JQ-1 (0-100 uM) and carfilzomib (CFZ) (0-50 nM) at 24, 48 and 72 hours. Changes in cell viability were evaluated using Presto Blue assay. Subsequently, DHL cells were exposed to doublet combinations of ABT-199, JQ-1 and CFZ for 48 hours. Coefficient of synergy was calculated using CalcuSyn.

Results: In vitro, ABT199, JQ-1, and CFZ induced cell death in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Significant synergistic activity was observed by combining ABT199 with CFZ and to a lesser degree with JQ-1.

Conclusion: ABT199 exhibited strong synergistic activity with CFZ. Dual targeting of BCL2 and c-MYC pathways results in synergistic activity in DHL cell lines. Of interest, this pharmacological interaction could be related to the effects of proteasome inhibition on MCL1 and p21 levels in lymphoma cells, further enhancing the activity of ABT199. Using combination therapy to inhibit c-MYC and the proteasome and in turn decreasing MCL1 will render ABT-199 more effective and be a more potent combination in causing apoptosis and lymphoma cell death. Further pre-clinical work is ongoing.

Citation Format: Priyank P. Patel, Alison Zeccola, Juan Gu, Cory Mavis, Sheila N. J. Sait, Vishala Neppalli, Francisco J. Hernandez-Ilizaliturri. Investigating novel targeted therapies for double hit diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DH-DLBCL). [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2016 Apr 16-20; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(14 Suppl):Abstract nr 3038.