Combination of rapamycin and protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibitors for the treatment of leukemias caused by oncogenic PTKs

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 2;101(9):3130-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0400063101. Epub 2004 Feb 19.


Abnormal protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) cause many human leukemias. For example, BCR/ABL causes chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), whereas FLT3 mutations contribute to the pathogenesis of acute myelogenous leukemia. The ABL inhibitor Imatinib (Gleevec, STI571) has remarkable efficacy for treating chronic phase CML, and FLT3 inhibitors (e.g., PKC412) show similar promise in preclinical studies. However, resistance to PTK inhibitors is a major emerging problem that may limit long-term therapeutic efficacy. Development of rational combination therapies will probably be required to effect cures of these and other neoplastic disorders. Here, we report that the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin synergizes with Imatinib against BCR/ABL-transformed myeloid and lymphoid cells and increases survival in a murine CML model. Rapamycin/Imatinib combinations also inhibit Imatinib-resistant mutants of BCR/ABL, and rapamycin plus PKC412 synergistically inhibits cells expressing PKC412-sensitive or -resistant leukemogenic FLT3 mutants. Biochemical analyses raise the possibility that inhibition of 4E-BP1 phosphorylation may be particularly important for the synergistic effects of PTK inhibitor/rapamycin combinations. Addition of a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase inhibitor to rapamycin or rapamycin plus PTK inhibitor further increases efficacy. Our results suggest that simultaneous targeting of more than one signaling pathway required by leukemogenic PTKs may improve the treatment of primary and relapsed CML and/or acute myelogenous leukemia caused by FLT3 mutations. Similar strategies may be useful for treating solid tumors associated with mutant and/or overexpressed PTKs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / toxicity*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Benzamides
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl / genetics
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • K562 Cells
  • Leukemia
  • Piperazines / toxicity
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics*
  • Pyrimidines / toxicity
  • Sirolimus / toxicity*
  • Staurosporine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Staurosporine / toxicity


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzamides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl
  • Staurosporine
  • midostaurin
  • Sirolimus