Cyclin-dependent kinase 9 is a novel specific molecular target in adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma

Tomoko Narita, Takashi Ishida, Asahi Ito, Ayako Masaki, Shiori Kinoshita, Susumu Suzuki, Hisashi Takino, Takashi Yoshida, Masaki Ri, Shigeru Kusumoto, Hirokazu Komatsu, Kazunori Imada, Yuetsu Tanaka, Akifumi Takaori-Kondo, Hiroshi Inagaki, Arne Scholz, Philip Lienau, Taruho Kuroda, Ryuzo Ueda and Shinsuke Iida

Key Points

  • BAY 1143572, a novel and selective P-TEFb/CDK9 inhibitor, possessed significant antitumor activity against primary ATL cells in vitro.

  • BAY 1143572 possessed significant antitumor activity in an ATL mouse model based on tumor cells from a patient.

Publisher's Note: There is an Inside Blood Commentary on this article in this issue.


Cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9), a subunit of the positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) complex, regulates gene transcription elongation by phosphorylating the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). The deregulation of CDK9/P-TEFb has important implications for many cancer types. BAY 1143572 is a novel and highly selective CDK9/P-TEFb inhibitor currently being investigated in phase 1 studies. We evaluated the therapeutic potential of BAY 1143572 in adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL). As a result of CDK9 inhibition and subsequent inhibition of phosphorylation at serine 2 of the RNAPII CTD, BAY 1143572 decreased c-Myc and Mcl-1 levels in ATL-derived or human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1)–transformed lines and primary ATL cells tested, leading to their growth inhibition and apoptosis. Median inhibitory concentrations for BAY 1143572 in ATL-derived or HTLV-1–transformed lines (n = 8), primary ATL cells (n = 11), and CD4+ cells from healthy volunteers (n = 5) were 0.535, 0.30, and 0.36 μM, respectively. Next, NOG mice were used as recipients of tumor cells from an ATL patient. BAY 1143572–treated ATL-bearing mice (once daily 12.5 mg/kg oral application) demonstrated significantly decreased ATL cell infiltration of the liver and bone marrow, as well as decreased human soluble interleukin-2 receptor levels in serum (reflecting the ATL tumor burden), compared with untreated mice (n = 8 for both). BAY 1143572–treated ATL-bearing mice demonstrated significantly prolonged survival compared with untreated ATL-bearing mice (n = 7 for both). Collectively, this study indicates that BAY 1143572 showed strong potential as a novel treatment of ATL.

  • Submitted September 29, 2016.
  • Accepted June 14, 2017.
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