Hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 targets hypoxic bone marrow niches in preclinical leukemia models

Juliana Benito, Marc S. Ramirez, Niki Zacharias Millward, Juliana Velez, Karine G. Harutyunyan, Hongbo Lu, Yue Xi Shi, Polina Matre, Rodrigo Jacamo, Helen Ma, Sergej Konoplev, Teresa McQueen, Andrei Volgin, Marina Protopopova, Hong Mu, Jaehyuk Lee, Pratip K. Bhattacharya, Joseph R. Marszalek, R. Eric Davis, James A. BanksonJorge E. Cortes, Charles P. Hart, Michael Andreeff, Marina Konopleva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Purpose: To characterize the prevalence of hypoxia in the leukemic bone marrow, its association with metabolic and transcriptional changes in the leukemic blasts and the utility of hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 in leukemia models. Experimental Design: Hyperpolarized magnetic resonance spectroscopy was utilized to interrogate the pyruvate metabolism of the bone marrow in the murine acute myeloid leukemia (AML) model. Nanostring technology was used to evaluate a gene set defining a hypoxia signature in leukemic blasts and normal donors. The efficacy of the hypoxia-activated prodrug TH-302 was examined in the in vitro and in vivo leukemia models. Results: Metabolic imaging has demonstrated increased glycolysis in the femur of leukemic mice compared with healthy control mice, suggesting metabolic reprogramming of hypoxic bone marrow niches. Primary leukemic blasts in samples from AML patients overexpressed genes defining a "hypoxia index" compared with samples from normal donors. TH-302 depleted hypoxic cells, prolonged survival of xenograft leukemia models, and reduced the leukemia stem cell pool in vivo. In the aggressive FLT3/ITD MOLM-13 model, combination of TH-302 with tyrosine kinase inhibitor sorafenib had greater antileukemia effects than either drug alone. Importantly, residual leukemic bone marrow cells in a syngeneic AML model remain hypoxic after chemotherapy. In turn, administration of TH-302 following chemotherapy treatment to mice with residual disease prolonged survival, suggesting that this approach may be suitable for eliminating chemotherapy-resistant leukemia cells. Conclusions: These findings implicate a pathogenic role of hypoxia in leukemia maintenance and chemoresistance and demonstrate the feasibility of targeting hypoxic cells by hypoxia cytotoxins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1687-1698
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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