Krebs Cycle: A Role for Metabolic Enzymes in Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Alan M. Miller, MD, PhD and Lorraine M. Cherry, PhD
Published: Monday, Jun 29, 2015
Baylor Cancer CenterAlan M. Miller, MD, PhD
Alan M. Miller, MD, PhD
Chief of Oncology, Baylor Health System
Medical Director, Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center
Dallas, TX Lorraine M. Cherry, PhD
Lorraine M. Cherry, PhD
Writer and editor
Baylor Health System
Dallas, TXAlan M. Miller
Even with a growing body of knowledge about acute myeloid leukemia (AML), new biomarkers that would serve as prognostic indicators or therapeutic targets are urgently needed. One promising avenue of exploration is the Krebs cycle, where inhibiting a key metabolic enzyme has proved beneficial in early clinical studies.

The need for new therapies for patients with AML is pressing. The disease is the most common form of leukemia in adults, with approximately 18,860 new cases and 10,460 deaths expected to occur this year. It is largely a disease of older people, with more than half of patients 65 years or older at diagnosis. Treatment typically begins with administration of cytarabine and anthracycline induction chemotherapy to achieve remission, followed by multiple rounds of consolidation chemotherapy and possibly stem cell transplant.

AML is a heterogeneous malignancy, with distinct disease subtypes characterized by recurrent chromosomal translocations and somatic mutations. Subtypes are associated with different levels of risk. For example, monosomal karyotypes (-5, 5q-, -7. 7q-) are related to poor risk, while some specific translocations [t(16;16), t(8;21), t(15;17)] are associated with better risk. In addition to cytogenetics, molecular markers, including FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3), c-KIT, nucleophosmin (NPM1), and CEBPA, can help in defining prognostic groups.

Although researchers have been able to identify these subtypes, the prediction of relapse in a specific patient remains uncertain. The current best approach is to determine as early as possible if a patient has relapsed or if there was subclinical residual disease after treatment. This will help us understand the effectiveness of the treatment and make informed decisions about postremission strategies.

Isocitrate Dehydrogenase

For several years, researchers have been using next-generation sequencing techniques to identify new mutations. that might be useful as prognostic biomarkers or as therapeutic targets for AML. This led to the discovery that mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH), a metabolic enzyme, exist in 10% to 20% of patients with AML, conferring a poor prognosis.

IDH is a critical enzyme in the Krebs cycle. It is present in two isoforms: IDH1 is cytosolic and IDH2 is mitochondrial. As homodimers, the IDH enzymes convert isocitrate into α-ketoglutarate (α-KG), which affects a variety of dioxygenases, including several that influence the epigenetic environment of the cell.

Mutations in IDH genes prevent oxidative decarboxylation of isocitrate to α-KG, affecting the overall energy landscape of the cell. In addition, IDH mutations result in conversion of α-KG to D-2-hydroxyglutarate (D-2-HG), which acts as a competitive inhibitor of dioxygenases. This leads to alterations in the epigenetic programming of the cell, blocking differentiation and potentially contributing to the development of AML.

Researchers have demonstrated that AMLs with mutated IDH1/2 show global hypermethylation and a specific hypermethylation signature. Inhibitors of IDH1 and IDH2 are currently in AML clinical trials with promising early results.

Potential Metabolic Effects of Mutations in Isocitrate Dehydrogenase (IDH)


Optical Isomers of 2-HG

View Conference Coverage
Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Clinical Interchange™: Moving Forward From the Status Quo for the Treatment of Soft Tissue Sarcoma: Key Questions and New Answers to Optimize OutcomesOct 31, 20182.0
Rapid Reviews in Oncology®: Practice-Changing Data in Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A Rapid Update From Atlanta OnlineDec 21, 20182.0
Publication Bottom Border
Border Publication