Direct and indirect targeting of MYC to treat acute myeloid leukemia

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2015 Jul;76(1):35-46. doi: 10.1007/s00280-015-2766-z. Epub 2015 May 9.


Purpose: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common acute leukemia in adults and is often resistant to conventional therapies. The MYC oncogene is commonly overexpressed in AML but has remained an elusive target. We aimed to examine the consequences of targeting MYC both directly and indirectly in AML overexpressing MYC/Myc due to trisomy 8/15 (human/mouse), FLT3-ITD mutation, or gene amplification.

Methods: We performed in vivo knockdown of Myc (shRNAs) and both in vitro and in vivo experiments using four drugs with indirect anti-MYC activity: VX-680, GDC-0941, artemisinin, and JQ1.

Results: shRNA knockdown of Myc in mice prolonged survival, regardless of the mechanism underlying MYC overexpression. VX-680, an aurora kinase inhibitor, demonstrated in vitro efficacy against human MYC-overexpressing AMLs regardless of the mechanism of MYC overexpression, but was weakest against a MYC-amplified cell line. GDC-0941, a PI3-kinase inhibitor, demonstrated efficacy against several MYC-overexpressing AMLs, although only in vitro. Artemisinin, an antimalarial, did not demonstrate consistent efficacy against any of the human AMLs tested. JQ1, a bromodomain and extra-terminal bromodomain inhibitor, demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo efficacy against several MYC-overexpressing AMLs. We also confirmed a decrease in MYC levels at growth inhibitory doses for JQ1, and importantly, sensitivity of AML cell lines to JQ1 appeared independent of the mechanism of MYC overexpression.

Conclusions: Our data support growing evidence that JQ1 and related compounds may have clinical efficacy in AML treatment regardless of the genetic abnormalities underlying MYC deregulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Growth Processes / drug effects
  • Cell Growth Processes / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Genes, myc
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / therapy*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / deficiency*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transfection
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • MYC protein, human
  • Myc protein, mouse
  • Piperazines
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • tozasertib