Small-molecule HDAC and Akt inhibitors suppress tumor growth and enhance immunotherapy in multiple myeloma


Background: Multiple myeloma (MM) is an incurable disease. The acquisition of resistance to drugs, including immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs), has a negative effect on its prognosis. Cereblon (CRBN) is a key mediator of the bioactivities of IMiDs such as lenalidomide. Moreover, genetic alteration of CRBN is frequently detected in IMiD-resistant patients and is considered to contribute to IMiD resistance. Thus, overcoming resistance to drugs, including IMiDs, is expected to improve clinical outcomes. Here, we examined potential mechanisms of a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor and Akt inhibitor in relapsed/refractory MM patients.

Methods: We established lenalidomide-resistant cells by knocking down CRBN with RNAi-mediated downregulation or knocking out CRBN using CRISPR-Cas9 in MM cells. Additionally, we derived multi-drug (bortezomib, doxorubicin, or dexamethasone)-resistant cell lines and primary cells from relapsed/refractory MM patients. The effects of HDAC and Akt inhibitors on these drug-resistant MM cells were then observed with a particular focus on whether HDAC inhibitors enhance immunotherapy efficacy. We also investigated the effect of lenalidomide on CRBN-deficient cells.

Results: The HDAC inhibitor suppressed the growth of drug-resistant MM cell lines and enhanced the antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) of therapeutic antibodies by upregulating natural killer group 2D (NKG2D) ligands in MM cells. CRBN-deficient cells showed lenalidomide-induced upregulation of phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase-3 (p-GSK-3) and c-Myc phosphorylation. Moreover, HDAC and Akt inhibitors downregulated c-Myc by blocking GSK-3 phosphorylation. HDAC and Akt inhibitors also exhibited synergistic cytotoxic and c-Myc-suppressive effects. The dual HDAC and PI3K inhibitor, CUDC-907, exhibited cytotoxic and immunotherapy-enhancing effects in MM cells, including multi-drug-resistant lines and primary cells from lenalidomide-resistant patients.

Conclusions: The combination of an HDAC and an Akt inhibitor represents a promising approach for the treatment of relapsed/refractory MM.