Targeting BET Proteins Downregulates miR-33a To Promote Synergy with PIM Inhibitors in CMML

Clin Cancer Res. 2023 Aug 1;29(15):2919-2932. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-3929.


Purpose: Preclinical studies in myeloid neoplasms have demonstrated efficacy of bromodomain and extra-terminal protein inhibitors (BETi). However, BETi demonstrates poor single-agent activity in clinical trials. Several studies suggest that combination with other anticancer inhibitors may enhance the efficacy of BETi.

Experimental design: To nominate BETi combination therapies for myeloid neoplasms, we used a chemical screen with therapies currently in clinical cancer development and validated this screen using a panel of myeloid cell line, heterotopic cell line models, and patient-derived xenograft models of disease. We used standard protein and RNA assays to determine the mechanism responsible for synergy in our disease models.

Results: We identified PIM inhibitors (PIMi) as therapeutically synergistic with BETi in myeloid leukemia models. Mechanistically, we show that PIM kinase is increased after BETi treatment, and that PIM kinase upregulation is sufficient to induce persistence to BETi and sensitize cells to PIMi. Furthermore, we demonstrate that miR-33a downregulation is the underlying mechanism driving PIM1 upregulation. We also show that GM-CSF hypersensitivity, a hallmark of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), represents a molecular signature for sensitivity to combination therapy.

Conclusions: Inhibition of PIM kinases is a potential novel strategy for overcoming BETi persistence in myeloid neoplasms. Our data support further clinical investigation of this combination.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelomonocytic, Chronic*
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Proteins


  • Proteins
  • MicroRNAs