Mer receptor tyrosine kinase is a novel therapeutic target in pediatric B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Blood. 2009 Sep 24;114(13):2678-87. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-03-209247. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is currently treated with an intense regimen of chemotherapy yielding cure rates near 80%. However, additional changes using available drugs are unlikely to provide significant improvement in survival. New therapies are warranted given the risk of severe therapy-associated toxicities including infertility, organ damage, and secondary malignancy. Here, we report ectopic expression of the receptor tyrosine kinase Mer in pediatric B-cell ALL. Inhibition of Mer prevented Erk 1/2 activation, increased the sensitivity of B-ALL cells to cytotoxic agents in vitro by promoting apoptosis, and delayed disease onset in a mouse model of leukemia. In addition, we discovered cross-talk between the Mer and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways. Our results identify Mer as a novel therapeutic target in ALL and suggest that inhibitors of Mer will interact synergistically with currently used therapies. This strategy may allow for dose reduction resulting in decreased toxicity and increased survival rates. Mer is aberrantly expressed in numerous other malignancies suggesting that this approach may have broad applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Child
  • Drug Delivery Systems* / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / therapeutic use
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • MERTK protein, human
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase