Classic and Targeted Anti-Leukaemic Agents Interfere With the Cholesterol Biogenesis Metagene in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia: Therapeutic Implications

J Cell Mol Med. 2020 May 25. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.15339. Online ahead of print.


Despite significant advances in deciphering the molecular landscape of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), therapeutic outcomes of this haematological malignancy have only modestly improved over the past decades. Drug resistance and disease recurrence almost invariably occur, highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of these processes. While low O2 compartments, such as bone marrow (BM) niches, are well-recognized hosts of drug-resistant leukaemic cells, standard in vitro studies are routinely performed under supra-physiologic (21% O2 , ambient air) conditions, which limits clinical translatability. We hereby identify molecular pathways enriched in AML cells that survive acute challenges with classic or targeted therapeutic agents. Experiments took into account variations in O2 tension encountered by leukaemic cells in clinical settings. Integrated RNA and protein profiles revealed that lipid biosynthesis, and particularly the cholesterol biogenesis branch, is a particularly therapy-induced vulnerability in AML cells under low O2 states. We also demonstrate that the impact of the cytotoxic agent cytarabine is selectively enhanced by a high-potency statin. The cholesterol biosynthesis programme is amenable to additional translational opportunities within the expanding AML therapeutic landscape. Our findings support the further investigation of higher-potency statin (eg rosuvastatin)-based combination therapies to enhance targeting residual AML cells that reside in low O2 environments.

Keywords: acute myeloid leukaemia; cholesterol; hypoxia; statins.