The MERTK/FLT3 inhibitor MRX-2843 overcomes resistance-conferring FLT3 mutations in acute myeloid leukemia

JCI Insight. 2016 Mar;1(3):e85630. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.85630.


FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3-targeted (FLT3-targeted) therapies have shown initial promise for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) expressing FLT3-activating mutations; however, resistance emerges rapidly. Furthermore, limited options exist for the treatment of FLT3-independent AML, demonstrating the need for novel therapies that reduce toxicity and improve survival. MERTK receptor tyrosine kinase is overexpressed in 80% to 90% of AMLs and contributes to leukemogenesis. Here, we describe MRX-2843, a type 1 small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor that abrogates activation of both MERTK and FLT3 and their downstream effectors. MRX-2843 treatment induces apoptosis and inhibits colony formation in AML cell lines and primary patient samples expressing MERTK and/or FLT3-ITD, with a wide therapeutic window compared with that of normal human cord blood cells. In murine orthotopic xenograft models, once-daily oral therapy prolonged survival 2- to 3-fold over that of vehicle-treated controls. Additionally, MRX-2843 retained activity against quizartinib-resistant FLT3-ITD-mutant proteins with clinically relevant alterations at the D835 or F691 loci and prolonged survival in xenograft models of quizartinib-resistant AML. Together, these observations validate MRX-2843 as a translational agent and support its clinical development for the treatment of AML.