PAK1 is a therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome

Ashley Pandolfi, Robert F. Stanley, Yiting Yu, Boris Bartholdy, Gopichand Pendurti, Kira Gritsman, Jacqueline Boultwood, Jonathan Chernoff, Amit Verma, Ulrich Steidl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Poor clinical outcome of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) has been attributed to failure of current chemotherapeutic regimens to target leukemic stem cells. We recently identified p21-activated kinase (PAK1) as a downstream effector molecule of H2.0-like homeobox (HLX), a gene functionally relevant for AML pathogenesis. In this study, we find that inhibition of PAK1 activity by small molecule inhibitors or by RNA interference leads to profound leukemia inhibitory effects both in vitro and in vivo. Inhibition of PAK1 induces differentiation and apoptosis of AML cells through downregulation of the MYC oncogene and a core network of MYC target genes. Importantly, we find that inhibition of PAK1 inhibits primary human leukemic cells including immature leukemic stem cell-enriched populations. Moreover, we find that PAK1 upregulation occurs during disease progression and is relevant for patient survival in MDS. Our studies highlight PAK1 as a novel target in AML and MDS and support the use of PAK1 inhibitors as a therapeutic strategy in these diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1118-1127
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 27 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology

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