? PROJECT 3 Children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) are predisposed to juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), an aggressive myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN). The median survival of JMML patients is <1 year without hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), and the overall cure rate is ~50% after HSCT. Our studies showing that NF1 functions as a tumor suppressor gene in JMML patients implicated hyperactive Ras signaling in the pathogenesis of this aggressive cancer. Consistent with this hypothesis, subsequent studies uncovered mutations in the NRAS, KRAS, PTPN11, and CBL genes in JMML patients. Despite the routine use of HSCT in JMML, up to 30% of patients progress to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Consistent with the molecular genetics of JMML, using the Mx1-Cre transgene to inactivate a conditional mutant Nf1flox allele in the hematopoietic compartment induces a JMML-like MPN is induced in mice, and our preclinical studies in this genetically accurate mouse model revealed remarkable efficacy of potent and selective MEK inhibitors. Interestingly, we found that treatment did not eradicate mutant cells, but modulated their proliferation and differentiation in vivo. Based on these studies, Project 3 of this DHART SPORE will pursue two specific aims. First, we will conduct an Investigator-initiated trial of the FDA-approved MEK inhibitor trametinib in relapsed and newly diagnosed JMML. We will also interrogate molecular mechanisms of response and resistance through the use of sensitive residual disease assays that harness next-generation sequencing technologies to monitor mutant allele burden in JMML specimens. We hypothesize that MEK inhibition will markedly reduce or eradicate JMML cells in a subset of children with JMML, and will induce clinical improvement without altering mutant allele frequency in others. We further postulate that a complete genetic response will predict a favorable outcome, and we will interrogate leukemia cells from patients who initially respond to trametinib and then relapse to identify candidate resistance mutations.
In Aim 2, we will investigate human JMML cells and use mouse models of MPN and AML characterized by Nf1 inactivation to investigate how secondary mutations identified in JMML specimens influence the response to trametinib, and to functionally validate candidate mechanisms of drug resistance. Project 3 will benefit from and inform the other Projects in this SPORE, and are dependent on the Administrative, Omics, and Biospecimens/Pathology Cores for successfully achieving its goals.

Public Health Relevance

? PROJECT 3 The goals of this translational research project are to test a new treatment for juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). This aggressive cancer responds poorly to chemotherapy and is much more common is children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). In addition to treating JMML patients with a targeted inhibitor of MEK, we will investigate the molecular mechanisms of response and will seek to identify biomarkers of response and resistance.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1-RPRB-0 (M1))
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Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
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