Sequential treatment with flavopiridol synergistically enhances pyrrolo-1,5-benzoxazepine-induced apoptosis in human chronic myeloid leukaemia cells including those resistant to imatinib treatment

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Graphical abstractThe Bcr-Abl kinase inhibitor, imatinib mesylate, is the front line treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), but the emergence of imatinib resistance has led to the search for alternative drug treatments and the examination of combination therapies to overcome imatinib resistance. The pro-apoptotic PBOX compounds are a recently developed novel series of microtubule targeting agents (MTAs) that depolymerise tubulin. Recent data demonstrating enhanced MTA-induced tumour cell apoptosis upon combination with the cyclin dependent kinase (CDK)-1 inhibitor flavopiridol prompted us to examine whether this compound could similarly enhance the effect of the PBOX compounds. We thus characterised the apoptotic and cell cycle events associated with combination therapy of the PBOX compounds and flavopiridol and results showed a sequence dependent, synergistic enhancement of apoptosis in CML cells including those expressing the imatinib-resistant T315I mutant. Flavopiridol reduced the number of polyploid cells formed in response to PBOX treatment but only to a small extent, suggesting that inhibition of endoreplication was unlikely to play a major role in the mechanism by which flavopiridol synergistically enhanced PBOX-induced apoptosis. The addition of flavopiridol following PBOX-6 treatment did however result in an accelerated exit from the G2/M transition accompanied by an enhanced downregulation and deactivation of the CDK1/cyclin B1 complex and an enhanced degradation of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) survivin. In conclusion, results from this study highlight the potential of these novel series of PBOX compounds, alone or in sequential combination with flavopiridol, as an effective therapy against CML.

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