AbstractT-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALLs) are aggressive and heterogeneous hematologic tumors resulting from the malignant transformation of T-cell progenitors. The major challenges in the treatments of T-ALL are dose-limiting toxicities of chemotherapeutics and drug resistance. Despite important progress in deciphering the genomic landscape of T-ALL, translation of these findings into effective targeted therapies remains largely unsuccessful. New targeted agents with significant antileukemic efficacy and less toxicity are in urgent need. We herein report that the expression of WEE1, a nuclear tyrosine kinase involved in cell cycle G2-M checkpoint signaling, is significantly elevated in T-ALL. Mechanistically, oncogenic MYC directly binds to the WEE1 promoter and activates its transcription. T-ALL cells particularly rely on the elevated WEE1 for cell viability. Pharmacological inhibition of WEE1 elicits global metabolic reprogramming which results in a marked suppression of aerobic glycolysis in T-ALL cells, leading to an increased dependency on glutaminolysis for cell survival. As such, dual targeting of WEE1 and glutaminase (GLS1) induces synergistic lethality in multiple T-ALL cell lines and shows great efficacy in T-ALL patient-derived xenografts. These findings provide mechanistic insights in the regulation of WEE1 kinase in T-ALL and suggest an additional vulnerability during WEE1 inhibitor treatments. In aggregate, we highlight a promising combination strategy of dual inhibition of cell cycle kinase and metabolic enzymes for T-ALL therapeutics.
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Ferrata Storti Foundation, Pavia, Italy
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