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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identification and characterization of novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers in chronic myeloid leukemia Lin, Hanyang


Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) has long served as a paradigm for new insights into the cellular origin, pathogenesis and treatment of human cancers. ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapies have had remarkable effects on treatment of early phase CML. However, TKI monotherapies are not curative, and initial and acquired TKI resistance remain clinically challenging. Particularly, CML stem/progenitor cells are insensitive to TKIs. Therefore, novel treatments and predictive biomarkers are clearly needed. In this work, I studied the biological effects of dual BCR-ABL and JAK2 suppressions on TKI-nonresponder stem/progenitor cells, and identified and characterized novel microRNA (miRNA) biomarkers in these cells. I examined the biological effects of a new JAK2 inhibitor, BMS-911543, in combination with TKIs on CD34⁺ CML cells from IM-nonresponders. I demonstrated that combination therapy significantly reduces JAK2/STAT5 and CRKL activities, induces apoptosis, inhibits colony growth, and eliminates leukemic stem cells in vitro, while sparing healthy counterparts. I further showed that oral BMS-911543 combined with dasatinib is more effective in eliminating leukemic cells in an aggressive mouse model of BCR-ABL⁺ human leukemia. Next, I identified differentially expressed miRNAs in CD34⁺ CML cells using RNA-seq analysis, and validated the results in additional samples using high-throughput qPCR. Potential miRNA target genes were also identified by integrating miRNA expression profiles with gene expression profiles using strand-specific RNA-seq. These studies revealed that expression of miR-185 is significantly reduced in CD34⁺ CML cells from TKI-nonresponders compared to TKI-responders. Restoration of miR-185 expression by lentiviral transduction in CD34⁺ TKI-nonresponder cells significantly impairs survival of these cells and sensitizes them to TKI treatment in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, I validated the target genes of miR-185 to rationalize its roles in CML. Lastly, I demonstrated that the expression levels of several miRNAs, including miR185, were restored in patients treated with nilotinib, suggesting their potential as biomarkers to predict clinical response to TKI therapies. These studies have uncovered the biological significance of JAK2 and miR-185 in regulation of the properties of drug-insensitive CML stem/progenitor cells, and their potential as therapeutic targets for improved treatments with TKIs especially in patients at risk of developing TKI resistance.

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