Background: AVE9633 is a new immunoconjugate comprising a humanized monoclonal antibody, anti-CD33 antigen, linked through a disulfide bond to the maytansine derivative DM4, a cytotoxic agent and potent tubulin inhibitor. It is undergoing a phase I clinical trial. Chemoresistance to anti-mitotic agents has been shown to be related, in part, to overexpression of ABC proteins. The aim of the present study was to investigate the potential roles of P-gp, MRP1 and BCRP in cytotoxicity in AVE9633-induced acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Methods: This study used AML cell lines expressing different levels of P-gp, MRP1 or BCRP proteins and twenty-five samples from AML patients. Expression and functionality of the transporter protein were analyzed by flow cytometry. The cytotoxicity of the drug was evaluated by MTT and apoptosis assays.
Results: P-gp activity, but not MRP1 and BCRP, attenuated AVE9633 and DM4 cytotoxicity in myeloid cell lines. Zosuquidar, a potent specific P-gp inhibitor, restored the sensitivity of cells expressing P-gp to both AVE9633 and DM4. However, the data from AML patients show that 10/25 samples of AML cells (40%) were resistant to AVE9633 or DM4 (IC(50) > 500 nM), and this was not related to P-gp activity (p-Value: 0.7). Zosuquidar also failed to re-establish drug sensitivity. Furthermore, this resistance was not correlated with CD33 expression (p-Value: 0.6) in those cells.
Conclusion: P-gp activity is not a crucial mechanism of chemoresistance to AVE9633. For patients whose resistance to conventional anthracycline AML regimens is related to ABC protein expression, a combination with AVE9633 could be beneficial. Other mechanisms such as microtubule alteration could play an important role in chemoresistance to AVE9633.