Cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) is a master regulator of transcription that controls paused RNA polymerase II (RNAP2) release through phosphorylation of its carboxy-terminal domain, resulting in productive transcription elongation. CDK9 has been extensively studied as a potential target for cancer therapy in “transcriptionally addicted” tumors as transient inhibition of CDK9 primarily depletes proteins with short half-lives, such as the oncogenes MCL1 and MYC, making CDK9 a promising target in cancer. Here we show that PRT2527 is a potent and highly selective CDK9 inhibitor with moderate to high clearance that achieves optimal temporal target engagement and exhibits potent in vitro and in vivo activities. PRT2527 inhibited CDK9 enzymatic activity with an IC50 of 0.98 nM in a biochemical assay and showed high selectivity in a panel of kinases when tested at physiologically relevant 1 mM ATP concentration. In vitro, PRT2527 inhibited phosphorylation of Ser2RNAP2 in NCI-H929 cells with an IC50 of 54 nM, and an IC50 of 198 nM in a plasma assay to adjust for human plasma protein binding. Transient treatment of cells with PRT2527 inhibited pSer2RNAP2, depleted MCL1 and MYC proteins, and activated cleaved caspase-3 (CC3) in a concentration-dependent manner. In a proteomic profiling study, MCL1 was identified as one of the major down-regulated proteins following PRT2527 treatment. In a panel of hematological cancer cell lines representing B- and T-ALL, AML, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), as well as subsets of sarcoma, prostate, adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines, PRT2527 treatment consistently led to a potent, concentration-dependent inhibition of proliferation. In a pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) study, intravenous (IV) administration of PRT2527 achieved transient target engagement, depletion of MCL1 and MYC proteins, and induction of apoptosis in tumor tissue. This PK/PD correlation was successfully translated into in vivo efficacy in multiple models. Once weekly dosing of PRT2527 was well-tolerated and significantly inhibited tumor growth in various AML CDX models and induced tumor regressions in double-hit and triple-hit diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) CDX and PDX models carrying the MYC translocation. Combining PRT2527 with venetoclax achieved complete tumor regressions in a venetoclax resistant OCI-AML3 model. PRT2527 demonstrated potent ex vivo activity in PDX models of B-ALL and T-ALL, as well as various solid tumor PDX models with high levels of MYC amplification and overexpression, including pancreatic carcinoma, gastric and gastroesophageal carcinomas, NSCLC, and sarcoma. In vivo efficacy studies with once weekly IV administration of PRT2527 confirmed significant tumor growth inhibition in select MYC-amplified solid tumor PDX models. Taken together, this preclinical characterization supports the advancement of PRT2527 into clinical studies for transcriptionally addicted hematological malignancies and solid tumors with MYC amplification and/or dysregulation.
Citation Format: Yang W. Zhang, Liang Lu, Min Wang, Dave Rominger, Stefan Ruepp, Kirsten Gallagher, William Gowen-MacDonald, Chaofeng Dai, Miles Cowart, Andrew Combs, Bruce Ruggeri, Peggy Scherle, Kris Vaddi. PRT2527 is a potent and selective CDK9 inhibitor that demonstrates anti-cancer activity in preclinical models of hematological malignancies and solid tumors with MYC amplification [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR-NCI-EORTC Virtual International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics; 2021 Oct 7-10. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Mol Cancer Ther 2021;20(12 Suppl):Abstract nr P237.