MLL-rearranged infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is an aggressive type of leukemia characterized by a unique gene-expression profile. We uncovered that the activation of particular (proto-onco)genes is mediated by promoter hypomethylation. In search for therapeutic agents capable of targeting these potential cancer-promoting genes, we applied connectivity mapping on a gene expression signature based on the genes most significantly hypomethylated in t(4;11)-positive infant ALL as compared with healthy bone marrows. This analysis revealed histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors as suitable candidates to reverse the unfavorable gene signature. We show that HDAC inhibitors effectively induce leukemic cell death in t(4;11)-positive primary infant ALL cells, accompanied by downregulation of MYC, SET, RUNX1, RAN as well as the MLL-AF4 fusion product. Furthermore, DNA methylation was restored after HDAC inhibitor exposure. Our data underlines the essential role for epigenetic de-regulation in MLL-rearranged ALL. Furthermore, we show, for the first time, that connectivity mapping can indirectly be applied on DNA methylation patterns, providing a rationale for HDAC inhibition in t(4;11)-positive leukemias. Given the presented potential of HDAC inhibitors to target important proto-oncogenes including the leukemia-specific MLL fusion in vitro, these agents should urgently be tested in in vivo models and subsequent clinical trials.

connectivity map, HDAC inhibitors, infant ALL, MLL
dx.doi.org/10.1038/leu.2011.278, hdl.handle.net/1765/69229
Leukemia
Department of Pediatrics

Stumpel, D.J.P.M, Schneider, P, Seslija, L, Osaki, H, Williams, O, Pieters, R, & Stam, R.W. (2012). Connectivity mapping identifies HDAC inhibitors for the treatment of t(4;11)-positive infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia, 26(4), 682–692. doi:10.1038/leu.2011.278