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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a largely incurable disease, for which new treatments are urgently needed. While leukemogenesis occurs in the hypoxic bone marrow, the therapeutic tractability of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) system remains undefined. Given that inactivation of HIF-1α/HIF-2α promotes AML, a possible clinical strategy is to target the HIF-prolyl hydroxylases (PHDs), which promote HIF-1α/HIF-2α degradation. Here, we reveal that genetic inactivation of Phd1/Phd2 hinders AML initiation and progression, without impacting normal hematopoiesis. We investigated clinically used PHD inhibitors and a new selective PHD inhibitor (IOX5), to stabilize HIF-α in AML cells. PHD inhibition compromises AML in a HIF-1α-dependent manner to disable pro-leukemogenic pathways, re-program metabolism and induce apoptosis, in part via upregulation of BNIP3. Notably, concurrent inhibition of BCL-2 by venetoclax potentiates the anti-leukemic effect of PHD inhibition. Thus, PHD inhibition, with consequent HIF-1α stabilization, is a promising nontoxic strategy for AML, including in combination with venetoclax.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Cancer

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