Blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) is an aggressive hematologic malignancy with dismal outcomes for which no standard therapy exists. We found that primary BPDCN cells were dependent on the antiapoptotic protein BCL2 and were uniformly sensitive to the BCL2 inhibitor venetoclax, as measured by direct cytotoxicity, apoptosis assays, and dynamic BH3 profiling. Animals bearing BPDCN patient-derived xenografts had disease responses and improved survival after venetoclax treatment in vivo Finally, we report on 2 patients with relapsed/refractory BPDCN who received venetoclax off-label and experienced significant disease responses. We propose that venetoclax or other BCL2 inhibitors undergo expedited clinical evaluation in BPDCN, alone or in combination with other therapies. In addition, these data illustrate an example of precision medicine to predict treatment response using ex vivo functional assessment of primary tumor tissue, without requiring a genetic biomarker.
Significance: Therapy for BPDCN is inadequate, and survival in patients with the disease is poor. We used primary tumor cell functional profiling to predict BCL2 antagonist sensitivity as a common feature of BPDCN, and demonstrated in vivo clinical activity of venetoclax in patient-derived xenografts and in 2 patients with relapsed chemotherapy-refractory disease. Cancer Discov; 7(2); 156-64. ©2016 AACR.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 115.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.