Potent antileukemic activity of curaxin CBL0137 against MLL-rearranged leukemia

Klaartje Somers, Angelika Kosciolek, Angelika Bongers, Ali El-Ayoubi, Mawar Karsa, Chelsea Mayoh, Carol Wadham, Shiloh Middlemiss, Nickolay Neznanov, Ursula R. Kees, Richard B. Lock, Andrei Gudkov, Rosemary Sutton, Katerina Gurova, Michelle Haber, Murray D. Norris, Michelle J. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Around 10% of acute leukemias harbor a rearrangement of the MLL/KMT2A gene, and the presence of this translocation results in a highly aggressive, therapy-resistant leukemia subtype with survival rates below 50%. There is a high unmet need to identify safer and more potent therapies for MLL-rearranged (MLL-r) leukemia that can be combined with established chemotherapeutics to decrease treatment-related toxicities. The curaxin, CBL0137, has demonstrated nongenotoxic anticancer and chemopotentiating effects in a number of preclinical cancer models and is currently in adult Phase I clinical trials for solid tumors and hematological malignancies. The aim of our study was to investigate whether CBL0137 has potential as a therapeutic and chemopotentiating compound in MLL-r leukemia through a comprehensive analysis of its efficacy in preclinical models of the disease. CBL0137 decreased the viability of a panel of MLL-r leukemia cell lines (n = 12) and xenograft cells derived from patients with MLL-r acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL, n = 3) in vitro with submicromolar IC50s. The small molecule drug was well-tolerated in vivo and significantly reduced leukemia burden in a subcutaneous MV4;11 MLL-r acute myeloid leukemia model and in patient-derived xenograft models of MLL-r ALL (n = 5). The in vivo efficacy of standard of care drugs used in remission induction for pediatric ALL was also potentiated by CBL0137. CBL0137 exerted its anticancer effect by trapping Facilitator of Chromatin Transcription (FACT) into chromatin, activating the p53 pathway and inducing an Interferon response. Our findings support further preclinical evaluation of CBL0137 as a new approach for the treatment of MLL-r leukemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1902-1916
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
Early online date20 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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