Molecularly targeted kinase inhibitor cancer therapies are currently administered sequentially rather than simultaneously. We addressed the potential long-term impact of this strategy in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), which is driven by the fusion oncogene BCR-ABL. Analysis of BCR-ABL genotypes in CML patients who relapsed after sequential treatment with the ABL inhibitors imatinib and dasatinib revealed evolving resistant BCR-ABL kinase domain mutations in all cases. Twelve patients relapsed with the pan-resistant T315I mutation, whereas 6 patients developed novel BCR-ABL mutations predicted to retain sensitivity to imatinib based on in vitro studies. Three of these patients were retreated with imatinib (or the chemically related compound nilotinib) and responded; however, selection for compound mutants (2 or 3 BCR-ABL mutations in the same molecule) can substantially limit the potential effectiveness of retreating patients with inhibitors that have previously failed. Furthermore, drug-resistant mutations, when compounded, can increase oncogenic potency relative to the component mutants in transformation assays. The Aurora kinase inhibitor VX-680, currently under clinical evaluation based on its activity against the T315I mutation, is also effective against the other commonly detected dasatinib-resistant mutation in our analysis, V299L. Our findings demonstrate the potential hazards of sequential kinase inhibitor therapy and suggest a role for a combination of ABL kinase inhibitors, perhaps including VX-680, to prevent the outgrowth of cells harboring drug-resistant BCR-ABL mutations.
Neil P. Shah, Brian J. Skaggs, Susan Branford, Timothy P. Hughes, John M. Nicoll, Ronald L. Paquette, Charles L. Sawyers