The development and survival of cancer cells require adaptive mechanisms to stress. Such adaptations can confer intrinsic vulnerabilities, enabling the selective targeting of cancer cells. Through a pooled in vivo short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen, we identified the adenosine triphosphatase associated with diverse cellular activities (AAA-ATPase) valosin-containing protein (VCP) as a top stress-related vulnerability in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We established that AML was the most responsive disease to chemical inhibition of VCP across a panel of 16 cancer types. The sensitivity to VCP inhibition of human AML cell lines, primary patient samples, and syngeneic and xenograft mouse models of AML was validated using VCP-directed shRNAs, overexpression of a dominant-negative VCP mutant, and chemical inhibition. By combining mass spectrometry-based analysis of the VCP interactome and phospho-signaling studies, we determined that VCP is important for ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase activation and subsequent DNA repair through homologous recombination in AML. A second-generation VCP inhibitor, CB-5339, was then developed and characterized. Efficacy and safety of CB-5339 were validated in multiple AML models, including syngeneic and patient-derived xenograft murine models. We further demonstrated that combining DNA-damaging agents, such as anthracyclines, with CB-5339 treatment synergizes to impair leukemic growth in an MLL-AF9-driven AML murine model. These studies support the clinical testing of CB-5339 as a single agent or in combination with standard-of-care DNA-damaging chemotherapy for the treatment of AML.
Copyright © 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.