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Development of venetoclax for therapy of lymphoid malignancies

Authors Zhu H, Almasan A

Received 1 January 2017

Accepted for publication 14 February 2017

Published 9 March 2017 Volume 2017:11 Pages 685—694


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anastasios Lymperopoulos

Huayuan Zhu,1,2 Alexandru Almasan1

1Department of Cancer Biology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH, USA; 2Department of Hematology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Jiangsu Province Hospital, Nanjing, People’s Republic of China

B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) family dysfunction and impairment of apoptosis are common in most B-cell lymphoid malignancies. Venetoclax (Venclexta™, formerly ABT-199, GDC-0199) is a highly selective BCL-2 inhibitor, which mimics its BCL-2 homology 3-domain to induce apoptosis. It was approved for treatment of previously treated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients with 17p deletion early in 2016. It has also been in clinical trials for other B-cell lymphoid malignancies. Unlike the other recently approved targeted agents idelalisib and ibrutinib, so far there has been no relapse reported in some patients. Also, unlike the other targeted agents, it is effective against tumor cells that reside in the blood marrow. Despite its promising outcome in CLL, preclinical data have already uncovered mechanistic insights underlying venetoclax resistance, such as upregulation of MCL-1 or BCL-xL expression and protective signaling from the microenvironment. In this review, we describe the role of the BCL-2 family in the pathogenesis of B-cell lymphoid malignancies, the development of venetoclax, and its current clinical outcome in CLL and other B-cell malignancies. We also discuss the resistance mechanisms that develop following venetoclax therapy, potential strategies to overcome them, and how this knowledge can be translated into clinical applications.

Keywords: BCL-2, BCL-xL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, MCL-1, venetoclax

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