Dual inhibition of IGF-IR and ALK as an effective strategy to eradicate NPM-ALK+ T-cell lymphoma

J Hematol Oncol. 2019 Jul 24;12(1):80. doi: 10.1186/s13045-019-0768-8.


Background: Nucleophosmin-anaplastic lymphoma kinase-expressing (NPM-ALK+) T cell lymphoma is an aggressive neoplasm. NPM-ALK, an oncogenic tyrosine kinase, plays a critical role in this lymphoma. Recently, selective ALK inhibitors have emerged as a first-line therapy for this neoplasm. Unfortunately, ALK inhibitors were hindered by emergence of resistance and relapse. We have previously demonstrated that type I insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-IR) is commonly expressed and activated in this lymphoma. In addition, IGF-IR and NPM-ALK are physically associated and reciprocally enhance their phosphorylation/activation. Herein, we tested the hypothesis that combined inhibition of IGF-IR and NPM-ALK could significantly improve the effects of inhibiting each kinase alone.

Methods: We used clinically utilized inhibitors of IGF-IR (picropodophyllin; PPP) and ALK (ASP3026) to assess the in vitro cellular effects of combined treatment versus treatment using a single agent. Moreover, we used a systemic NPM-ALK+ T cell lymphoma mouse model to analyze the in vivo effects of PPP and ASP3026 alone or in combination.

Results: Our data show that combined treatment with PPP and ASP3026 decreased the viability, proliferation, and anchorage-independent colony formation, and increased apoptosis of NPM-ALK+ T cell lymphoma cells in vitro. The in vitro effects of combined treatment were synergistic and significantly more pronounced than the effects of PPP or ASP3026 alone. Biochemically, simultaneous antagonism of IGF-IR and ALK induced more pronounced decrease in pIGF-IRY1135/1136, pNPM-ALKY646, and pSTAT3Y705 levels than antagonizing IGF-IR or ALK alone. Moreover, combined targeting of IGF-IR and NPM-ALK decreased significantly systemic lymphoma tumor growth and improved mice survival in vivo. Consistent with the in vitro results, the in vivo effects of the combined therapy were more pronounced than the effects of targeting IGF-IR or ALK alone.

Conclusions: Combined targeting of IGF-IR and ALK is more effective than targeting IGF-IR or ALK alone in NPM-ALK+ T cell lymphoma. This strategy might also limit emergence of resistance to high doses of ALK inhibitors. Therefore, it could represent a successful therapeutic approach to eradicate this aggressive lymphoma. Importantly, combined inhibition is feasible because of the clinical availability of IGF-IR and ALK inhibitors. Our findings are applicable to other types of cancer where IGF-IR and ALK are simultaneously expressed.

Keywords: ASP3026; IGF-IR; NPM-ALK; Picropodophyllin; T cell lymphoma; Targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell / pathology
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell / therapy*
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase
  • Receptor, IGF Type 1