The microtubule-targeting agent CA4P regresses leukemic xenografts by disrupting interaction with vascular cells and mitochondrial-dependent cell death
Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute
Adhesion of leukemic cells to vascular cells may confer resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. We hypothesized that disruption of leukemic cell cytoskeletal stability and interference with vascular cell interactions would promote leukemic cell death. We demonstrate that low and nontoxic doses of microtubule-destabilizing agent combretastatin-A4-phosphate (CA4P) inhibit leukemic cell proliferation in vitro and induce mitotic arrest and cell death. Treatment of acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs) with CA4P leads to disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential, release of proapoptotic mitochondrial membrane proteins, and DNA fragmentation, resulting in cell death in part through a caspase-dependent manner. Furthermore, CA4P increases intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), and antioxidant treatment imparts partial protection from cell death, suggesting that ROS accumulation contributes to CA4P-induced cytotoxicity in AML. In vivo, CA4P inhibited proliferation and circulation of leukemic cells and diminished the extent of perivascular leukemic infiltrates, prolonging survival of mice that underwent xenotransplantation without inducing hematologic toxicity. CA4P decreases the interaction of leukemic cells with neovessels by down-regulating the expression of the adhesion molecule VCAM-1 thereby augmenting leukemic cell death. These data suggest that CA4P targets both circulating and vascular-adherent leukemic cells through mitochondrial damage and down-regulation of VCAM-1 without incurring hematologic toxicities. As such, CA4P provides for an effective means to treat refractory organ-infiltrating leukemias.