Retrovirology. 2020 Aug 28;17(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s12977-020-00535-z.
BACKGROUND: Adult T-cell leukemia lymphoma (ATLL) is a chemotherapy-resistant malignancy with a median survival of less than one year that will afflict between one hundred thousand and one million individuals worldwide who are currently infected with human T-cell leukemia virus type 1. Recurrent somatic mutations in host genes have exposed the T-cell receptor pathway through nuclear factor κB to interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) as an essential driver for this malignancy. We sought to determine if IRF4 represents a therapeutic target for ATLL and to identify downstream effectors and biomarkers of IRF4 signaling in vivo.
RESULTS: ATLL cell lines, particularly Tax viral oncoprotein-negative cell lines, that most closely resemble ATLL in humans, were sensitive to dose- and time-dependent inhibition by a next-generation class of IRF4 antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that employ constrained ethyl residues that mediate RNase H-dependent RNA degradation. ATLL cell lines were also sensitive to lenalidomide, which repressed IRF4 expression. Both ASOs and lenalidomide inhibited ATLL proliferation in vitro and in vivo. To identify biomarkers of IRF4-mediated CD4 + T-cell expansion in vivo, transcriptomic analysis identified several genes that encode key regulators of ATLL, including interleukin 2 receptor subunits α and β, KIT ligand, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4, and thymocyte selection-associated high mobility group protein TOX 2.
CONCLUSIONS: These data support the pursuit of IRF4 as a therapeutic target in ATLL with the use of either ASOs or lenalidomide.