The receptor tyrosine kinase orphan receptor 1 (ROR1) is absent in most normal adult tissues but overexpressed in various malignancies and is of importance for tumor cell survival, proliferation, and metastasis. In this study, we evaluated the apoptotic effects of a novel small molecule inhibitor of ROR1 (KAN0441571C) as well as venetoclax (BCL-2 inhibitor), bendamustine, idelalisib (PI3Kδ inhibitor), everolimus (mTOR inhibitor), and ibrutinib (BTK inhibitor) alone or in combination in human MCL primary cells and cell lines. ROR1 expression was evaluated by flow cytometry and Western blot (WB). Cytotoxicity was analyzed by MTT and apoptosis by Annexin V/PI staining as well as signaling and apoptotic proteins (WB). ROR1 was expressed both in patient-derived MCL cells and human MCL cell lines. KAN0441571C alone induced significant time- and dose-dependent apoptosis of MCL cells. Apoptosis was accompanied by decreased expression of MCL-1 and BCL-2 and cleavage of PARP and caspase 3. ROR1 was dephosphorylated as well as ROR1-associated signaling pathway molecules, including the non-canonical WNT signaling pathway (PI3Kδ/AKT/mTOR). The combination of KAN0441571C and ibrutinib, venetoclax, idelalisib, everolimus, or bendamustine had a synergistic apoptotic effect and significantly prevented phosphorylation of ROR1-associated signaling molecules as compared to KAN0441571C alone. Our results suggest that targeting ROR1 by a small molecule inhibitor, KAN0441571C, should be further evaluated particularly in combination with other targeting drugs as a new therapeutic approach for MCL.
Keywords: MCL; ROR1; apoptosis; small molecules; targeted therapy.