MLL rearrangement is one of the key drivers and generally regarded as an independent poor prognostic marker in acute leukemias. The standard of care for MLL-rearranged (MLL-r) leukemias has remained largely unchanged for the past 50 years despite unsatisfying clinical outcomes, so there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic strategies. An increasing body of evidence demonstrates that a vast number of epigenetic regulators are directly or indirectly involved in MLL-r leukemia, and they are responsible for supporting the aberrant gene expression program mediated by MLL-fusions. Unlike genetic mutations, epigenetic modifications can be reversed by pharmacologic targeting of the responsible epigenetic regulators. This leads to significant interest in developing epigenetic therapies for MLL-r leukemia. Intriguingly, many of the epigenetic enzymes also involve in DNA damage response (DDR), which can be potential targets for synthetic lethality-induced therapies. In this review, we will summarize some of the recent advances in the development of epigenetic and DDR therapeutics by targeting epigenetic regulators or protein complexes that mediate MLL-r leukemia gene expression program and key players in DDR that safeguard essential genome integrity. The rationale and molecular mechanisms underpinning the therapeutic effects will also be discussed with a focus on how these treatments can disrupt MLL-fusion mediated transcriptional programs and impair DDR, which may help overcome treatment resistance.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.