Pacritinib, a potent clinical small molecule inhibitor of JAK2, it also suppresses signaling through wild-type and mutant FLT3, IRAK1, and CSF1R. Pacritinib does not cause marrow suppression and has demonstrated single agent activity preclinically in myelofibrosis and other myeloid neoplasms including AML and CMML. Stromal protection was not observed. However, the capacity of pacritinib to eradicate therapy resistant leukemia stem cells (LSC), residing in the bone marrow niche, had not been examined. Thus, we investigated the impact of pacritinib alone or in combination with standard of care therapy on primary blast crisis chronic myeloid leukemia (BC CML), myelofibrosis (MF) and AML LSC survival and self-renewal in a stem cell supportive niche.


Genetically engineered mouse bone marrow fibroblasts producing human SCF, IL3 and G-CSF were used as stromal monolayers to support LSC survival and self-renewal. Human primary CD34+ cells were selected from BC CML (n = 5), MF (n = 5) and relapsed AML (n = 4) before and after clinical treatment with azacitidine. As a control, CD34+ cells from age matched normal bone marrow (a-NBM, n = 4) were used for the co-culture. Survival and self-renewal of the cells were investigated by colony forming and replating assays. Pacritinib was used at concentrations ranging from 10 to 50 nM alone and in combination with 1 nM dasatinib.


Pacritinib alone induced dose-dependent inhibition of self-renewal in a-NBM, AML, MF and CML-BC, with the optimal concentration of 20nM leading to IC50 diversity in the response between normal and leukemia progenitors. AML and MF responded uniformly and inhibition reached 50% at 10nM concentration. BC CML cells were more divergent: 40% demonstrated >50% inhibition, in another 40% it was 20-50% and in 20% inhibition was <20%. Combined treatment with the low dose of dasatinib and pacritinib doses of 10 or 20 nM resulted in a significant (p<0.001, Anova) difference in self-renewal of all BC CML cells, raising a possibility of an additive/synergistic mechanisms. AML cells collected before and after clinical treatment with azacitidine uniformly showed a significant decrease in self-renewal starting with 10 nM pacritinib alone and combined treatment with dasatinib did not enhance the inhibition, suggesting a prospect of using pacritinib as a single agent in the treatment of relapsed AML.


Together these data indicate that possibly through inhibition of CSF1 and IRAK1 signaling in addition to suppression of JAK2, even in the presence of a LSC supportive niche, readily clinically achievable low nM concentrations of pacritinib alone are effective in reducing self-renewal of MF and relapsed AML. However, a combination of dasatinib and pacritinib is required to eliminate self-renewing LSC in BC CML with minimal toxicity toward normal progenitors. Targeting niche-dependent signaling could represent a robust avenue for treatment of refractory myeloid leukemia.

Citation Format: Larisa Balaian, Anna Kulijian, Edward D. Ball, Catriona H.M Jamieson. Pacritinib reduces human myeloid leukemia stem cell maintance in a defined niche. [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 3338.