This article was originally published here
Br J Cancer. 2020 Nov 30. doi: 10.1038/s41416-020-01191-y. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Resistance to proteasome inhibitors (PIs) is a major obstacle to the successful treatment of multiple myeloma (MM). Many mechanisms have been proposed for PI resistance; however, our mechanistic understanding of how PI resistance is inevitably acquired and reversed remains incomplete.
METHODS: MM patients after bortezomib relapse, MM cell lines and mouse models were used to generate matched resistant and reversed cells. RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analyses were employed to assess dysregulated epigenetic regulators. In vitro and in vivo procedures were used to characterise PI-tolerant cells and therapeutic efficacy.
RESULTS: Upon PI treatment, MM cells enter a slow-cycling and reversible drug-tolerant state. This reversible phenotype is associated with epigenetic plasticity, which involves tolerance rather than persistence in patients with relapsed MM. Combination treatment with histone deacetylase inhibitors and high-dosage intermittent therapy, as opposed to sustained PI monotherapy, can be more effective in treating MM by preventing the emergence of PI-tolerant cells. The therapeutic basis is the reversal of dysregulated epigenetic regulators in MM patients.
CONCLUSIONS: We propose an alternative non-mutational PI resistance mechanism that explains why PI relapse is inevitable and why patients regain sensitivity after a ‘drug holiday’. Our study also suggests strategies for epigenetic elimination of drug-tolerant cells.