Perturbation of cellular oxidative state induced by dichloroacetate and arsenic trioxide for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia

Leuk Res. 2015 Jul;39(7):719-29. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2015.04.002. Epub 2015 Apr 30.


The incidence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is rising and the outcome of current therapy, which has not changed significantly in the last 40 years, is suboptimal. Cellular oxidative state is a credible target to selectively eradicate AML cells, because it is a fundamental property of each cell that is sufficiently different between leukemic and normal cells, yet its aberrancy shared among different AML cells. To this end, we tested whether a short-time treatment of AML cells, including cells with FLT3-ITD mutation, with sub-lethal dose of dichloroacetate (DCA) (priming) followed by pharmacologic dose of arsenic trioxide (ATO) in presence of low-dose DCA could produce insurmountable level of oxidative damage that kill AML cells. Using cellular cytotoxicity, apoptotic and metabolic assays with both established AML cell lines and primary AML cells, we found that priming with DCA significantly potentiated the cytotoxicity of ATO in AML cells in a synergistic manner. The combination decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential as well as expression of Mcl-1 and GPx in primary AML cells more than either drug alone. One patient with AML whose disease was refractory to several lines of prior treatments was treated with this combination, and tolerated it well. These data suggest that targeting cellular redox balance in leukemia may provide a therapeutic option for AML patients with relapsed/refractory disease.

Keywords: AML; Antioxidants; Glycolysis; Mitochondria; Oxidative stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic Trioxide
  • Arsenicals / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dichloroacetic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Oxides / therapeutic use*


  • Arsenicals
  • Oxides
  • Dichloroacetic Acid
  • Arsenic Trioxide