Expression of PIM kinases in Reed-Sternberg cells fosters immune privilege and tumor cell survival in Hodgkin lymphoma

Maciej Szydłowski, Monika Prochorec-Sobieszek, Anna Szumera-Cieckiewicz, Edyta Derezinska, Grazyna Hoser, Danuta Wasilewska, Olga Szymanska-Giemza, Ewa Jabłonska, Emilia Białopiotrowicz, Tomasz Sewastianik, Anna Polak, Wojciech Czardybon, Michał Gałezowski, Renata Windak, Jan Maciej Zaucha, Krzysztof Warzocha, Krzysztof Brzózka and Przemysław Juszczynski

Key points

  • PIM kinases are ubiquitously expressed in RS cells of cHL.

  • PIM inhibition decreases NFκB and STAT3/5 activity, cell viability and expression of immunoregulatory proteins PD-L1/2 and galectin-1.


Reed-Sternberg (RS) cells of classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) express multiple immunoregulatory proteins that shape the cHL microenvironment and allow tumor cells to evade immune surveillance. Expression of certain immunoregulatory proteins is modulated by pro-survival transcription factors, such as NFκB and STATs. Since these factors also induce expression of the oncogenic PIM1/2/3 serine/threonine kinases, and since PIMs modulate transcriptional activity of NFκB and STATs, we hypothesized that these kinases support RS cell survival and foster their immune privilege. Herein, we investigated PIM1/2/3 expression in cHL and assessed their role in developing RS cell immune privilege and survival. PIM1/2/3 were ubiquitously expressed in primary and cultured RS cells and their expression was driven by JAK-STAT and NFκB activity. Genetic or chemical PIM inhibition with a newly developed pan-PIM inhibitor, SEL24-B489, induced RS cell apoptosis. PIM inhibition decreased cap-dependent protein translation, blocked JAK-STAT signaling, and markedly attenuated NFκB-dependent gene expression. In a cHL xenograft model, SEL24-B489 delayed tumor growth by 95.8% (p=0.0002). Furthermore, SEL24-B489 decreased the expression of multiple molecules engaged in developing the immunosuppressive microenvironment, including galectin-1 and PD-L1/2. In coculture experiments, T-cells incubated with SEL24-B489-treated RS cells exhibited higher expression of activation markers than T-cells co-incubated with control RS cells. Taken together, our data indicate that PIM kinases in cHL exhibit pleiotropic effects, orchestrating tumor immune escape and supporting RS cell survival. Inhibition of PIM kinases decreases RS cell viability and disrupts signaling circuits that link these cells with their niches. Thus, PIM kinases are promising therapeutic targets in cHL.

  • Submitted January 12, 2017.
  • Accepted July 2, 2017.