Synergistic induction of apoptosis by the Bcl-2 inhibitor ABT-737 and imatinib mesylate in gastrointestinal stromal tumor cells

David Reynoso, Laura K. Nolden, Dan Yang, Sarah N. Dumont, Anthony P. Conley, Amaury G.P. Dumont, Kim Zhou, Anette Duensing, Jonathan C. Trent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: Although imatinib mesylate has revolutionized the management of patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), resistance and progression almost inevitably develop with long-term monotherapy. To enhance imatinib-induced cytotoxicity and overcome imatinib-resistance in GIST cells, we examined the antitumor effects of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor ABT-737, alone and in combination with imatinib.Methods: We treated imatinib-sensitive, GIST-T1 and GIST882, and imatinib-resistant cells with ABT-737 alone and with imatinib. We determined the anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects by cell viability assay, flow cytometric apoptosis and cell cycle analysis, immunoblotting, and nuclear morphology. Synergism was determined by isobologram analysis.Results: The IC50 of single-agent ABT-737 at 72 h was 10 μM in imatinib-sensitive GIST-T1 and GIST882 cells, and 1 μM in imatinib-resistant GIST48IM cells. ABT-737 and imatinib combined synergistically in a time- and dose-dependent manner to inhibit the proliferation and induce apoptosis of all GIST cells, as evidenced by cell viability and apoptosis assays, caspase activation, PARP cleavage, and morphologic changes. Isobologram analyses revealed strongly synergistic drug interactions, with combination indices <0.5 for most ABT-737/imatinib combinations. Thus, clinically relevant in vitro concentrations of ABT-737 have single-agent antitumor activity and are synergistic in combination with imatinib.Conclusion: We provide the first preclinical evidence that Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibition with ABT-737 synergistically enhances imatinib-induced cytotoxicity via apoptosis, and that direct engagement of apoptotic cell death may be an effective approach to circumvent imatinib-resistance in GIST.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ABT-737
  • Apoptosis
  • GIST
  • Imatinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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