Toward an Improved Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment: Blocking the Stem Cell Factor–Mediated Innate Resistance With Anti–c-Kit Synthetic-Antibody Inhibitors
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) is a blood cancer that arises when hematopoietic cells acquire an abnormal protein known as BCR-ABL. Current therapies for CML include drugs that inhibit BCR-ABL. However, these drugs only suppress the disease and do not cure it. One reason is that BCR-ABL drugs fail to kill the primitive population of CML cells, referred to as leukemia stem cells (LSCs), which are responsible for initiating and propagating CML. Since LSCs are not killed, the cancer is not cured and many affected patients eventually relapse. Recent studies suggest that LSCs are protected from current therapies by the bone marrow micro-environment where they reside. There, cytokine signaling molecules are present, which mediate processes that protect LSCs from BCR-ABL drugs. The stem cell factor (SCF) is one of these signaling molecules. It activates the receptor c-Kit located on the surface of LSCs, and this activation in turn allows proliferating LSCs to resist BCR-ABL drugs, even without prior exposure to these drugs, i.e., innate resistance is observed. In this thesis, the mechanism of this innate resistance is investigated, so that a suitable treatment strategy can be developed. To this end, a co-agent approach based on synthetic antibodies (sABs) is proposed to inhibit the receptor c-Kit, with the goal of disrupting its activation by the ligand SCF. This disruption should in turn block the SCF-mediated innate resistance, thus potentially restoring BCR-ABL drug apoptotic activity. The method for this disruption involves targeting the c-Kit structural susceptibility. Specifically, the sABs are designed via antibody phage display technology to target the D1–D2–D3 domains representing the SCF binding sites, hence preventing downstream pathway activation. The hypothesis is that, by blocking the SCF-mediated innate resistance, a suitable combination of such an sAB co-agent and a BCR-ABL drug should be conducive to suppressing LSCs, thereby providing a potential means to improve CML treatment. In addition, to assess the performance of the proposed treatment strategy, a set of in vitro tests is conducted, focusing on performance behaviors such as cell binding, cell death, and the progenitor inhibition. The experimental results support the hypothesis that the proposed combinatorial strategy is indeed a promising approach to mitigate the innate resistance, thus restoring BCR-ABL drug apoptotic activity.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
DepartmentPathology and Laboratory Medicine
SupervisorGeyer, Clarence R.
CommitteeDeCoteau, John F.; Freywald, Andrew; Vizeacoumar, Franco
Copyright DateMarch 2015
chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
cancer stem cells
tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)
stem cell factor (SCF)
anti--c-Kit synthetic antibodies (sABs).