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Background: We previously demonstrated the in vitro killing of AML cells by the combination of the lipid-lowering agent bezafibrate (BEZ) and the contraceptive hormone medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). A phase II trial demonstrated in vivo safety and efficacy of BEZ and MPA (BaP) in elderly, relapsed/refractory AML and high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients. However, we observed dose-limiting toxicities in a second trial that attempted to improve outcomes via escalation of BaP doses. Thus we sought to identify a third repurposed drug that potentiates activity of low dose BaP (BaP 0.1 mM). Methods and Results: We demonstrate that addition of a commonly used anti-epileptic, valproic acid (VAL) to low dose BaP (BaP 0.1 mM)(VBaP) enhanced killing of AML cell lines/primary AML cells to levels similar to high dose BaP (BaP 0.5 mM). Similarly, addition of VAL to BaP 0.1 mM enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS), lipid peroxidation and inhibition of de novo fatty acid synthesis. Overexpression of Nrf2 in K562 and KG1a completely inhibited ROS production and rescued cells from VAL/BaP 0.1 mM/VBaP killing. Conclusions: Given the good safety data of low-dose BaP in elderly/relapsed/refractory AML patients, and that VAL alone is well-tolerated, we propose VBaP as a novel therapeutic combination for AML.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Cancer

Publication Date





275 - 286