Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) is an aggressive T-cell lymphoproliferative malignancy caused by human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1). ATL is an orphan disease with no curative drug treatment regimens urgently needing new combination therapy. HTLV-1-infected cells rely on viral proteins, Tax and HBZ (HTLV-1-b-ZIP factor), to activate the transcription of various host genes that are critical for promoting leukemic transformation. Inhibition of bromodomain and extraterminal motif (BET) protein was previously shown to collapse the transcriptional network directed by BATF3 super-enhancer and thereby induced ATL cell apoptosis. In the current work, by using xenograft, ex vivo, and in vitro models, we demonstrated that I-BET762 (BETi) synergized with copanlisib (PI3Ki) and bardoxolone methyl (NF-κBi) to dramatically decrease the growth of ATL cells. Mechanistically, the triple combination exhibited synergistic activity by down-regulating the expression of c-MYC while upregulating the level of the glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper (GILZ). The triple combination also enhanced apoptosis induction by elevating the expression of active caspase-3 and cleaved PARP. Importantly, the triple combination prolonged the survival of ATL-bearing xenograft mice and inhibited the proliferation of ATL cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of both acute and smoldering/chronic ATL patients. Therefore, our data provide the rationale for a clinical trial exploring the multiagent combination of BET, PI3K/AKT, and NF-κB inhibitors for ATL patients and expands the potential treatments for this recalcitrant malignancy.
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