Genome-wide CRISPR screen identifies CDK6 as a therapeutic target in adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma

Blood. 2022 Mar 10;139(10):1541-1556. doi: 10.1182/blood.2021012734.


Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is an aggressive T-cell malignancy with a poor prognosis with current therapy. Here we report genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screening of ATLL models, which identified CDK6, CCND2, BATF3, JUNB, STAT3, and IL10RB as genes that are essential for the proliferation and/or survival of ATLL cells. As a single agent, the CDK6 inhibitor palbociclib induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in ATLL models with wild-type TP53. ATLL models that had inactivated TP53 genetically were relatively resistant to palbociclib owing to compensatory CDK2 activity, and this resistance could be reversed by APR-246, a small molecule activator of mutant TP53. The CRISPR-Cas9 screen further highlighted the dependence of ATLL cells on mTORC1 signaling. Treatment of ATLL cells with palbociclib in combination with mTORC1 inhibitors was synergistically toxic irrespective of the TP53 status. This work defines CDK6 as a novel therapeutic target for ATLL and supports the clinical evaluation of palbociclib in combination with mTORC1 inhibitors in this recalcitrant malignancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell* / genetics
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell* / pathology
  • Lymphoma*
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • CDK6 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6