Osimertinib Covalently Binds to CD34 and Eliminates Myeloid Leukemia Stem/Progenitor Cells

Cancer Res. 2024 Feb 1;84(3):479-492. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-23-1632.


Osimertinib is a third-generation covalent EGFR inhibitor that is used in treating non-small cell lung cancer. First-generation EGFR inhibitors were found to elicit pro-differentiation effect on acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells in preclinical studies, but clinical trials yielded mostly negative results. Here, we report that osimertinib selectively induced apoptosis of CD34+ leukemia stem/progenitor cells but not CD34- cells in EGFR-negative AML and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Covalent binding of osimertinib to CD34 at cysteines 199 and 177 and suppression of Src family kinases (SFK) and downstream STAT3 activation contributed to osimertinib-induced cell death. SFK and STAT3 inhibition induced synthetic lethality with osimertinib in primary CD34+ cells. CD34 expression was elevated in AML cells compared with their normal counterparts. Genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic profiling identified mutation and gene expression signatures of patients with AML with high CD34 expression, and univariate and multivariate analyses indicated the adverse prognostic significance of high expression of CD34. Osimertinib treatment induced responses in AML patient-derived xenograft models that correlated with CD34 expression while sparing normal CD34+ cells. Clinical responses were observed in two patients with CD34high AML who were treated with osimertinib on a compassionate-use basis. These findings reveal the therapeutic potential of osimertinib for treating CD34high AML and CML and describe an EGFR-independent mechanism of osimertinib-induced cell death in myeloid leukemia.

Significance: Osimertinib binds CD34 and selectively kills CD34+ leukemia cells to induce remission in preclinical models and patients with AML with a high percentage of CD34+ blasts, providing therapeutic options for myeloid leukemia patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrylamides*
  • Aniline Compounds*
  • Antigens, CD34 / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Indoles*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Myeloid Progenitor Cells
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Proteomics
  • Pyrimidines*


  • osimertinib
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Antigens, CD34
  • Acrylamides
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Indoles
  • Pyrimidines