Cell-specific modulation of drug resistance in acute myeloid leukemic blasts by diphtheria fusion toxin, DT388-GMCSF

Arthur E. Frankel, Philip D. Hall, Chris McLain, Ahmad R. Safa, Edward P. Tagge, Robert J. Kreitman

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33 Scopus citations


Radiochemotherapy-resistant blasts commonly cause treatment failure in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and their resistance is due, in part, to overexpression of multidrug resistance (mdr) proteins. We reasoned that targeted delivery of protein synthesis inactivating toxins to leukemic blasts would reduce the cellular concentrations of relatively short half-life resistance proteins and sensitize the cells to cytotoxic drugs. To test this hypothesis, we employed human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor fused to truncated diphtheria toxin (DT388-GMCSF). The human AML cell line HL60 and its vincristine-resistant sublines, HL60Vinc and HL60VCR, were incubated in vitro for 24 h with varying concentrations of toxin. Doxorubicin was added for an additional 24 h, and cell cytotoxicity was assayed by thymidine incorporation and colony formation in semisolid medium. DT388-GMCSF sensitized HL60Vinc and HL60VCR but not HL60 to doxorubicin. Combination indices for three log cell kill varied from 0.2 to 0.3. In contrast, pretreatment with doxorubicin followed by toxins failed to show synergy. At least in the case of the vincristine-resistant cell lines, modulation of drug resistance correlated with reduction in membrane P-glycoprotein concentrations based on immunoblots with C219 antibody, flow cytometry with MRK16 antibody, and cell uptake of doxorubicin. These observations suggest clinical trials of combination therapy may be warranted in patients with refractory AML. Further, targeted toxins may represent a novel class of cell-specific modulators of drug resistance for a number of malignancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-496
Number of pages7
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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