Blood 2017 12 27;130(23):2499-2503. Epub 2017 Sep 27.
Division of Hematology and Hemostaseology, Department of Internal Medicine I.
T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL) is a rare and aggressive T-lymphoid malignancy usually refractory to current treatment strategies and associated with short overall survival. By applying next-generation functional testing of primary patient-derived lymphoma cells using a library of 106 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anticancer drugs or compounds currently in clinical development, we set out to identify novel effective treatments for T-PLL patients. We found that the B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) inhibitor venetoclax (ABT-199) demonstrated the strongest T-PLL-specific response when comparing individual ex vivo drug response in 86 patients with refractory hematologic malignancies. Mechanistically, responses to venetoclax correlated with protein expression of BCL-2 but not with expression of the BCL-2 family members myeloid cell leukemia 1 (MCL-1) and BCL-XL in lymphoma cells. BCL-2 expression was inversely correlated with the expression of MCL-1. Based on the ex vivo responses, venetoclax treatment was commenced in 2 late-stage refractory T-PLL patients resulting in clinical responses. Our findings demonstrate first evidence of single-agent activity of venetoclax both ex vivo and in humans, offering a novel agent in T-PLL.