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Erythroid/megakaryocytic differentiation confers BCL-XL dependency and venetoclax resistance in acute myeloid leukemia

Myeloid neoplasms with erythroid or megakaryocytic differentiation include pure erythroid leukemia (PEL), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) with erythroid features, and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (FAB M7) and are characterized by poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Here, we investigate the drug sensitivity landscape of these rare malignancies. We show that acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells with erythroid or megakaryocytic differentiation depend on the anti-apoptotic protein BCL-XL, rather than BCL-2, using combined ex vivo drug sensitivity testing, genetic perturbation, and transcriptomic profiling. Single-cell and bulk transcriptomics of patient samples with erythroid and megakaryoblastic leukemias identified high BCL2L1 expression compared to other subtypes of AML and other hematological malignancies, where BCL2 and MCL1 were more prominent. Our results suggest targeting BCL-XL as a potential therapy option in erythroid/megakaryoblastic leukemias and highlight an AML subgroup with potentially reduced sensitivity to venetoclax-based treatments.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001009865 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 10