MCL1 inhibitors S63845/MIK665 plus Navitoclax synergistically kill difficult-to-treat melanoma cells

Cell Death Dis. 2020 Jun 8;11(6):443. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-2646-2.


Current treatment for patients with metastatic melanoma include molecular-targeted therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors. However, a subset of melanomas are difficult-to-treat. These melanomas include those without the genetic markers for targeted therapy, non-responsive to immunotherapy, and those who have relapsed or exhausted their therapeutic options. Therefore, it is necessary to understand and explore other biological processes that may provide new therapeutic approaches. One of most appealing is targeting the apoptotic/anti-apoptotic system that is effective against leukemia. We used genetic knockdown and pharmacologic approaches of BH3 mimetics to target anti-apoptotic BCL2 family members and identified MCL1 and BCLXL as crucial pro-survival members in melanoma. We then examined the effects of combining BH3 mimetics to target MCL1 and BCLXL in vitro and in vivo. These include clinical-trial-ready compounds such as ABT-263 (Navitoclax) and S63845/S64315 (MIK655). We used cell lines derived from patients with difficult-to-treat melanomas. In vitro, the combined inhibition of MCL1 and BCLXL resulted in significantly effective cell killing compared to single-agent treatment (p < 0.05) in multiple assays, including sphere assays. The combination-induced cell death was independent of BIM, and NOXA. Recapitulated in our mouse xenograft model, the combination inhibited tumor growth, reduced sphere-forming capacity (p < 0.01 and 0.05, respectively), and had tolerable toxicity (p > 0.40). Taken together, this study suggests that dual targeting of MCL1 and BCLXL should be considered as a treatment option for difficult-to-treat melanoma patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aniline Compounds / pharmacology
  • Aniline Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology
  • Sulfonamides / therapeutic use*


  • Aniline Compounds
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • MCL1 protein, human
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Sulfonamides
  • navitoclax