BCL-XL inhibition by BH3-mimetic drugs induces apoptosis in models of Epstein-Barr virus-associated T/NK-cell lymphoma


Blood Adv. 2020 Oct 13;4(19):4775-4787. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020002446.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated T- and natural killer (NK)-cell malignancies, such as extranodal NK-/T-cell lymphoma (ENKTL), exhibit high chemoresistance and, accordingly, such patients have a poor prognosis. The rare nature of such cancers and nonmalignant T/NK lymphoproliferative disorders, such as chronic active EBV (CAEBV), has limited our understanding of the pathogenesis of these diseases. Here, we characterize a panel of ENKTL- and CAEBV-derived cell lines that had been established

from human tumors to be used as preclinical models of these diseases. These cell lines were interleukin-2 dependent and found to carry EBV in a latency II gene-expression pattern. All cell lines demonstrated resistance to cell death induction by DNA damage-inducing agents, the current standard of care for patients with these malignancies. This resistance was not correlated with the function of the multidrug efflux pump, P-glycoprotein. However, apoptotic cell death could be consistently induced following treatment with A-1331852, a BH3-mimetic drug that specifically inhibits the prosurvival protein BCL-XL. A-1331852-induced apoptosis was most efficacious when prosurvival MCL-1 was additionally targeted, either by BH3-mimetics or genetic deletion. Xenograft models established from the ENKTL cell line SNK6 provided evidence that A-1331852 treatment could be therapeutically beneficial in vivo. The data here suggest that therapeutic targeting of BCL-XL would be effective for patients with EBV-driven T/NK proliferative diseases, however, MCL-1 could be a potential resistance factor.