Small Molecule ErbB Inhibitors Decrease Proliferative Signaling and Promote Apoptosis in Philadelphia Chromosome-Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Mary E. Irwin, Laura D. Nelson, Janice M. Santiago-O'Farrill, Phillip D. Knouse, Claudia P. Miller, Shana L. Palla, Doris R. Siwak, Gordon B. Mills, Zeev Estrov, Shulin Li, Steven M. Kornblau, Dennis P. Hughes, Joya Chandra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The presence of the Philadelphia chromosome in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL) is a negative prognostic indicator. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) that target BCR/ABL, such as imatinib, have improved treatment of Ph+ALL and are generally incorporated into induction regimens. This approach has improved clinical responses, but molecular remissions are seen in less than 50% of patients leaving few treatment options in the event of relapse. Thus, identification of additional targets for therapeutic intervention has potential to improve outcomes for Ph+ALL. The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (ErbB2) is expressed in ∼30% of B-ALLs, and numerous small molecule inhibitors are available to prevent its activation. We analyzed a cohort of 129 ALL patient samples using reverse phase protein array (RPPA) with ErbB2 and phospho-ErbB2 antibodies and found that activity of ErbB2 was elevated in 56% of Ph+ALL as compared to just 4.8% of Ph-ALL. In two human Ph+ALL cell lines, inhibition of ErbB kinase activity with canertinib resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in the phosphorylation of an ErbB kinase signaling target p70S6-kinase T389 (by 60% in Z119 and 39% in Z181 cells at 3 μM). Downstream, phosphorylation of S6-kinase was also diminished in both cell lines in a dose-dependent manner (by 91% in both cell lines at 3 μM). Canertinib treatment increased expression of the pro-apoptotic protein Bim by as much as 144% in Z119 cells and 49% in Z181 cells, and further produced caspase-3 activation and consequent apoptotic cell death. Both canertinib and the FDA-approved ErbB1/2-directed TKI lapatinib abrogated proliferation and increased sensitivity to BCR/ABL-directed TKIs at clinically relevant doses. Our results suggest that ErbB signaling is an additional molecular target in Ph+ALL and encourage the development of clinical strategies combining ErbB and BCR/ABL kinase inhibitors for this subset of ALL patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere70608
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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