This is a competing renewal application focused on the mechanisms of leukemogenesis and the identification of new targets for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Developing novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of AML is of high clinical translational relevance and importance, as the outcome for the majority of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains very poor, despite recent advances in the field. The emergence of leukemic cell resistance continues to be a serious problem and identifying pathways that can be targeted to eliminate leukemia stem cells (LSCs) would be of high relevance and importance. Work from our laboratory has provided evidence for the existence of negative feedback regulatory loops in myeloid leukemia cells that are engaged in response to chemotherapy or other antineoplastic agents and mediate leukemic cell resistance. These include activation of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades and other regulatory negative feedback loops. The kinases MNK1 and MNK2 are key effectors of MAPK pathways and control phosphorylation of the eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), a key element of the cap-translation initiation complex, whose function is critical for malignant transformation and survival of neoplastic cells. In addition, work from our group has provided the first evidence that MNK kinases are activated in a negative feedback regulatory manner to mediate eIF4E phosphorylation and to promote survival of primitive leukemic precursor cells in AML. Because of such key roles for eIF4E in tumorigenesis, targeting this signaling cascade using MNK kinase inhibitors may provide a unique approach to target and eliminate LSCs. The current proposal is a systematic approach to define the mechanisms by which MNK kinases promote LSC survival in AML and aims to use such information towards identifying novel cellular elements to selectively target LSCs and develop new therapeutic approaches for AML.
Specific aim 1 will define MNK effector pathways in AML leukemic progenitors and will dissect their contributions in leukemogenesis. Experiments will be performed to define the roles of MNK-regulated effectors in controlling oncogenic mRNA translation, processing, cell proliferation, and survival of leukemic precursors. In addition the differential requirement of MNK1 versus MNK2 in leukemogenesis and their regulatory effects on downstream pathways will be dissected.
Specific Aim 2 will examine the roles of MNK kinases and effector pathways in antileukemic responses in AML models in vivo. AML mouse models will be established in single Mnk1-/- or Mnk2-/- or double Mnk1-/-2-/- knockout mice, and the impact of different MNK kinases in leukemogenesis and generation of antileukemic responses in response to chemotherapy and other antileukemic agents will be addressed. Similar studies will be performed using mutant eIF4E knock-in mice, in which eIF4E cannot undergo MNK-mediated phosphorylation.
Specific aim 3 examine the antileukemic properties of novel MNK inhibitors on primary leukemic precursors and LSCs from AML patients and will attempt to target negative feedback loops to enhance responses. The effects of novel MNK inhibitors on primary cells from a large number of patients with AML will be examined and their effects on survival of LSCs will be defined. The activation of negative feedback pathways will be also assessed and the effects of combinations of MNK inhibitors with mTOR targeting agents or other modulators of such feedback loops on leukemic stem cell survival will be defined. Altogether, these studies should advance our understanding of the mechanisms of leukemogenesis and provide the basis for important future clinical-translational efforts involving the use of novel inhibitors targeting MNK kinases or their effectors for the treatment of AML.

Public Health Relevance

AML is a disease with very high morbidity and mortality and can occur either de novo or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) which are seen in older patients and have a high prevalence in the aging VA population. The results of the work proposed here should have a major impact in this area by driving the development of new agents that target unique components of MNK pathways in AML leukemia stem cells. This work could ultimately result in the development of novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of refractory AML or new strategies combining standard chemotherapy with MNK targeting agents for the treatment of AML.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Non-HHS Research Projects (I01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Hematology (HEMA)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
United States
Zip Code
Bell, Jonathan B; Eckerdt, Frank; Dhruv, Harshil D et al. (2018) Differential Response of Glioma Stem Cells to Arsenic Trioxide Therapy Is Regulated by MNK1 and mRNA Translation. Mol Cancer Res 16:32-46
Kroczynska, Barbara; Blyth, Gavin T; Rafidi, Robert L et al. (2017) Central Regulatory Role for SIN1 in Interferon ? (IFN?) Signaling and Generation of Biological Responses. J Biol Chem 292:4743-4752
Arslan, A D; Sassano, A; Saleiro, D et al. (2017) Human SLFN5 is a transcriptional co-repressor of STAT1-mediated interferon responses and promotes the malignant phenotype in glioblastoma. Oncogene 36:6006-6019
Kosciuczuk, Ewa M; Saleiro, Diana; Platanias, Leonidas C (2017) Dual targeting of eIF4E by blocking MNK and mTOR pathways in leukemia. Cytokine 89:116-121
Bell, Jonathan B; Eckerdt, Frank D; Alley, Kristen et al. (2016) MNK Inhibition Disrupts Mesenchymal Glioma Stem Cells and Prolongs Survival in a Mouse Model of Glioblastoma. Mol Cancer Res 14:984-993
Kroczynska, Barbara; Rafidi, Robert L; Majchrzak-Kita, Beata et al. (2016) Interferon ? (IFN?) Signaling via Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 2 (mTORC2) and Regulatory Effects in the Generation of Type II Interferon Biological Responses. J Biol Chem 291:2389-96
Iqbal, Asneha; Eckerdt, Frank; Bell, Jonathan et al. (2016) Targeting of glioblastoma cell lines and glioma stem cells by combined PIM kinase and PI3K-p110? inhibition. Oncotarget 7:33192-201
Kaplan, Jason B; Stein, Brady L; McMahon, Brandon et al. (2016) Evolving Therapeutic Strategies for the Classic Philadelphia-Negative Myeloproliferative Neoplasms. EBioMedicine 3:17-25
Kumar, Krishan; Chow, Christina R; Ebine, Kazumi et al. (2016) Differential Regulation of ZEB1 and EMT by MAPK-Interacting Protein Kinases (MNK) and eIF4E in Pancreatic Cancer. Mol Cancer Res 14:216-27
Saleiro, Diana; Kosciuczuk, Ewa M; Platanias, Leonidas C (2016) Beyond autophagy: New roles for ULK1 in immune signaling and interferon responses. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev 29:17-22

Showing the most recent 10 out of 24 publications