Children with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL) overexpressing the CRLF2 gene (hiCRLF2) have poor prognosis. CRLF2 protein overexpression leads to activated JAK/STAT signaling and trials are underway using JAK inhibitors to overcome treatment failure. Pre-clinical studies indicated limited efficacy of single JAK inhibitors, thus additional pathways must be targeted in hiCRLF2 cells. To identify additional activated networks, we used single-cell mass cytometry to examine 15 BCP-ALL primary patient samples. We uncovered a coordinated signaling network downstream of CRLF2 characterized by co-activation of JAK/STAT, PI3K, and CREB pathways. This CRLF2-driven network could be more effectively disrupted by SRC/ABL inhibition than single-agent JAK or PI3K inhibition, and this could be demonstrated even in primary minimal residual disease (MRD) cells. Our study suggests SCR/ABL inhibition as effective in disrupting the cooperative functional networks present in hiCRLF2 BCP-ALL patients, supporting further investigation of this strategy in pre-clinical studies.
Keywords: acute lymphoblastic leukemia; cell signaling; mass cytometry; minimal residual disease; signal transduction inhibitors.