Redefining CD56 as a Biomarker and Therapeutic Target in Multiple Myeloma

Mol Cancer Res. 2022 Jul 6;20(7):1083-1095. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-21-0828.


Multiple myeloma cells aberrantly express surface antigens compared with normal plasma cells. Among others, CD56 is present at variable levels in approximately 70% of patients with multiple myeloma; however, very little is known about CD56 role in multiple myeloma. We demonstrated that patients with multiple myeloma with more than 10% of CD56-expressing clonal multiple myeloma cells have inferior clinical outcomes. By gain-of and loss-of function models, we revealed that CD56 promotes multiple myeloma cell growth, survival, and adhesion to stromal cells. These protumoral effects are induced by the activation of the RSK2/CREB1 signaling pathway, with increased mRNA and protein levels of the anti-apoptotic genes BCL2 and MCL1. Consequently, the genomic and pharmacological inhibition of RSK2 or CREB1 specifically induced multiple myeloma cell death in CD56-expressing multiple myeloma cells. Finally, we observed that CD56 signaling decreases CRBN expression, reducing responses to lenalidomide. RSK2 or CREB1 inhibition increased CRBN levels and were synergic with lenalidomide in inducing cell death, especially in CD56-expressing multiple myeloma cells. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that CD56 promotes multiple myeloma cell growth, and pave the way to novel therapies based on targeting CD56, along with the use of CD56 as a predictive biomarker for multiple myeloma therapies.

Implications: Multiple myeloma is an incurable, genetically heterogeneous disease, without available tailored therapeutic approaches. CD56 signaling promotes multiple myeloma growth and adhesion, by activating CREB1 target genes, MCL1 and BCL2. Inhibition of CREB1 alone or in combination with lenalidomide is an unexplored synthetic lethal approach in CD56-expressing patients with multiple myeloma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • CD56 Antigen* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lenalidomide / therapeutic use
  • Multiple Myeloma* / drug therapy
  • Multiple Myeloma* / genetics
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / genetics
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • CD56 Antigen
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • NCAM1 protein, human
  • Lenalidomide