The survival and proliferation of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) cells is driven by multiple signalling pathways, including those mediated by the B cell, Toll-like and chemokine receptors. Many of these pathways converge on the same signalling molecules, including those involved in the Raf-1/MEK/Erk1/2-MAPK pathway. We investigated the effects of the MEK1/2 (also termed MAP2K1/2) inhibitor, binimetinib, against CLL cells cultured under conditions that mimic aspects of the tumour microenvironment. Binimetinib blocked CLL cell survival induced by stroma-conditioned media and phorbol myristylate (PMA). Binimetinib was also significantly more toxic towards CLL cells cultured in the presence of either anti-IgM antibody or stroma-derived factor-1α (SDF-1α) and reduced CLL cell cycle progression and proliferation. Furthermore, binimetinib significantly increased the sensitivity of CLL cells co-cultured with CD40 ligand (CD40L)-expressing fibroblasts to the BH3-mimetics ABT-737 and Venetoclax (ABT-199) via a mechanism involving down-regulation of Mcl-1 (MCL1) activity and Bim (BCL2L11) and Bcl-xL (BCL2L1) expression. Collectively, these data suggest that binimetinib may have both cytotoxic and cytostatic effects on CLL cells by blocking microenvironment-derived signals known to drive survival and proliferation. The combination of binimetinib with a BH3 mimetic may be an effective treatment strategy for CLL, particularly against the proliferative fraction of the disease within the tumour microenvironment.
- chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
- MEK1/2 inhibition
- Cell Cycle
- Cultured Tumor Microenvironment