Potent FLT3 inhibitors, such as quizartinib (AC220), have shown promise in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) containing FLT3 internal tandem duplication (ITD) mutations. However, responses are not durable and resistance develops within months. In this study, we outline a two-step model of resistance whereby extrinsic microenvironmental proteins FLT3 ligand (FL) and fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) protect FLT3-ITD+ MOLM14 cells from AC220, providing time for subsequent accumulation of ligand-independent resistance mechanisms. FL directly attenuated AC220 inhibition of FLT3, consistent with previous reports. Conversely, FGF2 promoted resistance through activation of FGFR1 and downstream MAPK effectors; these resistant cells responded synergistically to combinatorial inhibition of FGFR1 and FLT3. Removing FL or FGF2 from ligand-dependent resistant cultures transiently restored sensitivity to AC220, but accelerated acquisition of secondary resistance via reactivation of FLT3 and RAS/MAPK signaling. FLT3-ITD AML patients treated with AC220 developed increased FGF2 expression in marrow stromal cells, which peaked prior to overt clinical relapse and detection of resistance mutations. Overall, these results support a strategy of early combination therapy to target early survival signals from the bone marrow microenvironment, in particular FGF2, to improve the depth of response in FLT3-ITD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research