Despite advances in deciphering the molecular pathogenesis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), patients with relapsed/refractory disease, particularly those with adverse genetic features (e.g., mutated p53 or double hit lymphoma (DHL)) have very poor prognoses, and effective therapies are lacking. In this study we examined the preclinical efficacy and associated biological effects of the first oral proteasome inhibitor, ixazomib, in DLBCL in vitro and in vivo models. We demonstrated that ixazomib exhibited anti-tumor activities in 28 representative DLBCL cell lines, 10 primary DLBCL samples, and a DHL xenotransplant mouse model, at clinically achievable drug concentrations. Ixazomib sensitivity in DLBCL cells is correlated with immunoproteasomal activity; stimulating lymphoma cells with interferon gamma induced immunoproteasome activity and sensitized these cells to ixazomib. In addition, we showed that ixazomib induces apoptosis and the DNA damage response pathway, through activation of the checkpoint kinase 2 (CHK2). Hence, pharmacological inhibition of CHK2 enhances the anti-tumor activity of ixazomib in DLBCL cells. Our results indicate that ixazomib is an effective proteasome inhibitor active in DLBCL, including DHL, and its combination with a CHK2 inhibitor offers a potentially more robust therapeutic regimen for treatment-resistant DLBCL.
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