Combined inhibition of XIAP and BCL2 drives maximal therapeutic efficacy in genetically diverse aggressive acute myeloid leukemia

Nat Cancer. 2021 Mar;2(3):340-356. doi: 10.1038/s43018-021-00177-w. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Aggressive therapy-resistant and refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has an extremely poor outcome. By analyzing a large number of genetically complex and diverse, primary high-risk poor-outcome human AML samples, we identified specific pathways of therapeutic vulnerability. Through drug screens followed by extensive in vivo validation and genomic analyses, we found inhibition of cytosolic and mitochondrial anti-apoptotic proteins XIAP, BCL2 and MCL1, and a key regulator of mitosis, AURKB, as a vulnerability hub based on patient-specific genetic aberrations and transcriptional signatures. Combinatorial therapeutic inhibition of XIAP with an additional patient-specific vulnerability eliminated established AML in vivo in patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) bearing diverse genetic aberrations, with no signs of recurrence during off-treatment follow-up. By integrating genomic profiling and drug-sensitivity testing, this work provides a platform for a precision-medicine approach for treating aggressive AML with high unmet need.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / drug therapy
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2* / genetics
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein / genetics


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BCL2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
  • XIAP protein, human