Targeting Cellular Iron Homeostasis with Ironomycin in Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common hematological malignancy. Although more than half of patients with DLBCL achieve long-term remission, the majority of remaining patients succumb to the disease. As abnormal iron homeostasis is implicated in carcinogenesis and the progression of many tumors, we searched for alterations in iron metabolism in DLBCL that could be exploited to develop novel therapeutic strategies. Analysis of the iron metabolism gene expression profile of large cohorts of patients with DLBCL established the iron score (IS), a gene expression–based risk score enabling identification of patients with DLBCL with a poor outcome who might benefit from a suitable targeted therapy. In a panel of 16 DLBCL cell lines, ironomycin, a promising lysosomal iron-targeting small molecule, inhibited DLBCL cell proliferation at nanomolar concentrations compared with typical iron chelators. Ironomycin also induced significant cell growth inhibition, ferroptosis, and autophagy. Ironomycin treatment resulted in accumulation of DNA double-strand breaks, delayed progression of replication forks, and increased RPA2 phosphorylation, a marker of replication stress. Ironomycin significantly reduced the median number of viable primary DLBCL cells of patients without major toxicity for nontumor cells from the microenvironment and presented low toxicity in hematopoietic progenitors compared with conventional treatments. Significant synergistic effects were also observed by combining ironomycin with doxorubicin, BH3 mimetics, BTK inhibitors, or Syk inhibitors. Altogether, these data demonstrate that a subgroup of high-risk patients with DLBCL can be identified with the IS that can potentially benefit from targeting iron homeostasis.
Iron homeostasis represents a potential therapeutic target for high-risk patients with DLBCL that can be targeted with ironomycin to induce cell death and to sensitize tumor cells to conventional treatments.