Protein tyrosine phosphatase of regenerating liver 3 (PRL-3) is overexpressed in a subset of AML patients with inferior prognosis, representing an attractive therapeutic target. However, due to relatively shallow pocket of the catalytic site of PRL-3, it is difficult to develop selective small molecule inhibitor.
In this study, we performed whole-genome lentiviral shRNA library screening to discover synthetic lethal target to PRL-3 in AML. We used specific small molecule inhibitors to validate the synthetic lethality in human PRL-3 high vs PRL-3 low human AML cell lines and primary bone marrow cells from AML patients. AML mouse xenograft model was used to examine the in vivo synergism.
The list of genes depleted in TF1-hPRL3 cells was particularly enriched for members involved in WNT/β-catenin pathway and AKT/mTOR signaling. These findings prompted us to explore the impact of AKT/mTOR signaling inhibition in PRL-3 high AML cells in combination with WNT/β-catenin inhibitor. VS-5584, a novel, highly selective dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor, and ICG-001, a WNT inhibitor, were used as a combination therapy. A synthetic lethal interaction between mTOR/AKT pathway inhibition and WNT/β-catenin was validated by a variety of cellular assays. Notably, we found that treatment with these two drugs significantly reduced leukemic burden and prolonged survival of mice transplanted with human PRL-3 high AML cells, but not with PRL-3 low AML cells.
In summary, our results support the existence of cooperative signaling networks between AKT/mTOR and WNT/β-catenin pathways in PRL-3 high AML cells. Simultaneous inhibition of these two pathways could achieve robust clinical efficacy for this subtype of AML patient with high PRL-3 expression and warrant further clinical investigation.