Sensitivity to PI3K and AKT inhibitors is mediated by divergent molecular mechanisms in subtypes of DLBCL

Tabea Erdmann, Pavel Klener, James T. Lynch, Michael Grau, Petra Vočková, Jan Molinsky, Diana Tuskova, Kevin Hudson, Urszula M. Polanska, Michael Grondine, Michele Mayo, Beiying Dai, Matthias Pfeifer, Kristian Erdmann, Daniela Schwammbach, Myroslav Zapukhlyak, Annette M. Staiger, German Ott, Wolfgang E. Berdel, Barry R. Davies, Francisco Cruzalegui, Marek Trneny, Peter Lenz, Simon T. Barry and Georg Lenz

Key points

  • PI3Kα/δ inhibition induces cytotoxicity in ABC DLBCLs through downregulation of NF-κB signaling

  • Inhibition of AKT induces cytotoxicity by downregulation of MYC in PTEN-deficient DLBCL models in vivo and in vitro


Activated B-cell-like (ABC) and germinal center B-cell-like (GCB) diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) represent the two major molecular DLBCL subtypes. They are characterized by differences in clinical course and by divergent addiction to oncogenic pathways. To determine activity of novel compounds in these two subtypes, we conducted an unbiased pharmacologic in vitro screen. The phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) alpha/delta (PI3Kα/δ) inhibitor AZD8835 showed marked potency in ABC DLBCL models, whereas the protein kinase B (AKT) inhibitor AZD5363 induced apoptosis in PTEN-deficient DLBCLs irrespective of their molecular subtype. These in vitro results were confirmed in various cell line xenograft and patient-derived xenograft mouse models in vivo. Treatment with AZD8835 induced inhibition of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) signaling, prompting us to combine AZD8835 with the Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib. This combination was synergistic and effective both in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, the AKT inhibitor AZD5363 was effective in PTEN-deficient DLBCLs through downregulation of the oncogenic transcription factor MYC. Collectively, our data suggest that patients should be stratified according to their oncogenic dependencies when treated with PI3K and AKT inhibitors.

  • Submitted December 20, 2016.
  • Accepted February 10, 2017.