Novel therapies are urgently needed to prevent and treat tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). MLN8237 is a novel Aurora A kinase inhibitor under investigation in multiple phase I and II studies. Here we report that MLN8237 possessed equipotent activity against Ba/F3 cells and primary CML cells expressing unmutated and mutated forms of breakpoint cluster region-Abelson kinase (BCR-ABL). Notably, this agent retained high activity against the T315I and E255K BCR-ABL mutations, which confer the greatest degree of resistance to standard therapy. MLN8237 treatment disrupted cell cycle kinetics, induced apoptosis, caused a dose-dependent reduction in the expression of the large inhibitor of apoptosis protein Apollon, and produced a morphological phenotype consistent with Aurora A kinase inhibition. In contrast to other Aurora kinase inhibitors, MLN8237 did not significantly affect BCR-ABL activity. Moreover, inhibition of Aurora A with MLN8237 significantly increased the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of nilotinib. Targeted knockdown of Apollon sensitized CML cells to nilotinib-induced apoptosis, indicating that this is an important factor underlying MLN8237's ability to increase the efficacy of nilotinib. Our collective data demonstrate that this combination strategy represents a novel therapeutic approach for refractory CML that has the potential to suppress the emergence of T315I mutated CML clones.
© 2011 The Authors Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine © 2011 Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.