STAT5 activation promotes progression and chemotherapy resistance in early T-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Cedric S. Tremblay, Jesslyn Saw, Jacqueline A. Boyle, Katharina Haigh, Veronique Litalien, Hannah McCalmont, Kathryn Evans, Richard B. Lock, Stephen M. Jane, Jody J. Haigh, David J. Curtis

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Abstract

Interleukin-7 (IL-7) supports the growth and chemoresistance of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), particularly the early T-cell precursor subtype (ETP-ALL), which frequently has activating mutations of IL-7 signaling. Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT5) is an attractive therapeutic target because it is almost universally activated in ETP-ALL, even in the absence of mutations of upstream activators such as the IL-7 receptor (IL-7R), Janus kinase, and Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3). To examine the role of activated STAT5 in ETP-ALL, we have used a Lmo2-transgenic (Lmo2Tg) mouse model in which we can monitor chemoresistant preleukemia stem cells (pre-LSCs) and leukemia stem cells (LSCs) that drive T-ALL development and relapse following chemotherapy. Using IL-7R-deficient Lmo2Tg mice, we show that IL-7 signaling was not required for the formation of pre-LSCs but essential for their expansion and clonal evolution into LSCs to generate T-ALL. Activated STAT5B was sufficient for the development of T-ALL in IL-7R-deficient Lmo2Tg mice, indicating that inhibition of STAT5 is required to block the supportive signals provided by IL-7. To further understand the role of activated STAT5 in LSCs of ETP-ALL, we developed a new transgenic mouse that enables T-cell specific and doxycycline-inducible expression of the constitutively activated STAT5B1∗6 mutant. Expression of STAT5B1∗6 in T cells had no effect alone but promoted expansion and chemoresistance of LSCs in Lmo2Tg mice. Pharmacologic inhibition of STAT5 with pimozide-induced differentiation and loss of LSCs, while enhancing response to chemotherapy. Furthermore, pimozide significantly reduced leukemia burden in vivo and overcame chemoresistance of patient-derived ETP-ALL xenografts. Overall, our results demonstrate that STAT5 is an attractive therapeutic target for eradicating LSCs in ETP-ALL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-289
Number of pages16
JournalBlood
Volume142
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023

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