FLT3 inhibition: a moving and evolving target in acute myeloid leukaemia

Leukemia. 2013 Feb;27(2):260-8. doi: 10.1038/leu.2012.195. Epub 2012 Jul 16.


Internal tandem duplication (ITD) of the fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) gene is a gain-of-function mutation common in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). It is associated with inferior prognosis and response to chemotherapy. Single base mutations at the FLT3 tyrosine kinase domain (TKD) also leads to a gain of function, although its prognostic significance is less well defined because of its rarity. The clinical benefits of FLT3 inhibition are generally limited to AML with FLT3-ITD. However, responses are transient and leukaemia progression invariably occurs. There is compelling evidence that leukaemia clones carrying both ITD and TKD mutations appear when resistance to FLT3 inhibitors occurs. Interestingly, the emergence of double ITD and TKD mutants can be recapitulated in vitro when FLT3-ITD+ leukaemia cell lines are treated with mutagens and FLT3 inhibitors. Furthermore, murine xenotransplantation models also suggest that, in some cases, the FTL3-ITD and TKD double mutants actually exist in minute amounts before treatment with FLT3 inhibitors, expand under the selection pressure of FLT3 inhibition and become the predominant resistant clone(s) during the drug-refractory phase. On the basis of this model of clonal evolution, a multipronged strategy using more potent FLT3 inhibitors, and a combinatorial approach targeting both FLT3-dependent and FLT3-independent pathways, will be needed to improve outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / enzymology
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3 / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3