The increasing characterization of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has led to the identification of multiple molecular targets but has yet to translate into more effective targeted therapies, particularly for high-risk, relapsed T-cell ALL. Searching for master regulators controlling multiple signaling pathways in T-ALL, we investigated the multifunctional protein redox factor-1 (Ref-1/APE1), which acts as a signaling "node" by exerting redox regulatory control of transcription factors important in leukemia. Leukemia patients' transcriptome databases showed increased expression in T-ALL of Ref-1 and other genes of the Ref-1/SET interactome. Validation studies demonstrated that Ref-1 is expressed in high-risk leukemia T cells, including in patient biopsies. Ref-1 redox function is active in leukemia T cells, regulating the Ref-1 target NF-kB, and inhibited by the redox-selective Ref-1 inhibitor E3330. Ref-1 expression is not regulated by Notch signaling, but is upregulated by glucocorticoid treatment. E3330 disrupted Ref-1 redox activity in functional studies and resulted in marked inhibition of leukemia cell viability, including T-ALL lines representing different genotypes and risk groups. Potent leukemia cell inhibition was seen in primary cells from ALL patients, relapsed and glucocorticoid-resistant T-ALL cells, and cells from a murine model of Notch-induced leukemia. Ref-1 redox inhibition triggered leukemia cell apoptosis and downregulation of survival genes regulated by Ref-1 targets. For the first time, this work identifies Ref-1 as a novel molecular effector in T-ALL and demonstrates that Ref-1 redox inhibition results in potent inhibition of leukemia T cells, including relapsed T-ALL. These data also support E3330 as a specific Ref-1 small-molecule inhibitor for leukemia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research