Immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs), such as lenalidomide and pomalidomide, are a cornerstone of multiple myeloma (MM) therapies, yet the disease inevitably becomes refractory. IMiDs exert cytotoxicity by inducing cereblon-dependent proteasomal degradation of IKZF1 and IKZF3, resulting in downregulation of the oncogenic transcription factors IRF4 and MYC. To date, clinical IMiD resistance independent of cereblon or IKZF1/3 has not been well explored. Here, we investigated the roles of IRF4 and MYC in this context.

Experimental Design:

Using bone marrow aspirates from patients with IMiD-naïve or refractory MM, we examined IKZF1/3 protein levels and IRF4/MYC gene expression following ex vivo pomalidomide treatment via flow cytometry and qPCR. We also assessed exvivo sensitivity to the MYC inhibitor MYCi975 using flow cytometry.


We discovered that although pomalidomide frequently led to IKZF1/3 degradation in MM cells, it did not affect MYC gene expression in most IMiD-refractory samples. We subsequently demonstrated that MYCi975 exerted strong anti-MM effects in both IMiD-naïve and -refractory samples. Unexpectedly, we identified a cluster of differentiation 8+ (CD8+ T) cells from patients with MM as crucial effectors of MYCi975-induced cytotoxicity in primary MM samples, and we discovered that MYCi975 enhanced the cytotoxic functions of memory CD8+ T cells. We lastly observed synergy between MYCi975 and pomalidomide in IMiD-refractory samples, suggesting that restoring MYC downregulation can re-sensitize refractory MM to IMiDs.


Our study supports the concept that MYC represents an Achilles’ heel in MM across disease states and that MYCi975 may be a promising therapeutic for patients with MM, particularly in combination with IMiDs.

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