The introduction of the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib into treatment regimens for myeloma has led to substantial improvement in patient survival. However, whilst bortezomib elicits initial responses in many myeloma patients, this haematological malignancy remains incurable due to the development of acquired bortezomib resistance. With other patients presenting with disease that is intrinsically bortezomib resistant, it is clear that new therapeutic approaches are desperately required to target bortezomib-resistant myeloma. We have previously shown that targeting sphingolipid metabolism with the sphingosine kinase 2 (SK2) inhibitor K145 in combination with bortezomib induces synergistic death of bortezomib-naïve myeloma. In the current study, we have demonstrated that targeting sphingolipid metabolism with K145 synergises with bortezomib and effectively resensitises bortezomib-resistant myeloma to this proteasome inhibitor. Notably, these effects were dependent on enhanced activation of the unfolded protein response, and were observed in numerous separate myeloma models that appear to have different mechanisms of bortezomib resistance, including a new bortezomib-resistant myeloma model we describe which possesses a clinically relevant proteasome mutation. Furthermore, K145 also displayed synergy with the next-generation proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib in bortezomib-resistant and carfilzomib- resistant myeloma cells. Together, these findings indicate that targeting sphingolipid metabolism via SK2 inhibition may be effective in combination with a broad spectrum of proteasome inhibitors in the proteasome inhibitor resistant setting, and is an approach worth clinical exploration.
- Unfolded protein response