Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Experimental Therapeutics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Hesham Amin, M.D.

Committee Member

Jan Burger, M.D.

Committee Member

Joya Chandra, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peng Huang, M.D., Ph.D.


Proviral integration site for Moloney murine leukemia virus (Pim) kinases are Ser/Thr/Tyr kinases. They modulate B-cell development but become oncoproteins and promote cancer development once overexpressed. Containing three isoforms, Pim-1, -2 and -3 are known to phosphorylate various substrates that regulate transcription, translation, cell cycle, and survival pathways in both hematological and solid tumors.

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive B-cell lymphoma. Elevated Pim kinase levels are common in MCL, and it negatively correlates with patient outcome. SGI-1776 is a small molecule inhibitor selective for Pim-1/-3. We hypothesize that SGI-1776 treatment in MCL will inhibit Pim kinase function, and inhibition of downstream substrates phosphorylation will disrupt transcriptional, translational, and cell cycle processes while promoting apoptosis.

SGI-1776 treatment induced moderate to high levels of apoptosis in four MCL cell lines (JeKo-1, Mino, SP-53 and Granta-519) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from MCL patients. Phosphorylation of transcription and translation regulators, c-Myc and 4E-BP1 declined in both model systems. Additionally, levels of short-lived Mcl-1 mRNA and protein also decreased and correlated with decline of global RNA synthesis. Collectively, our investigations highlight Pim kinases as viable drug targets in MCL and emphasize their roles in transcriptional and translational regulation.

We further investigated a combination strategy using SGI-1776 with bendamustine, an FDA-approved DNA-damaging alkylating agent for treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We hypothesized this combination will enhance SGI-1776-induced transcription and translation inhibition, while promoting bendamustine-triggered DNA damage and inducing additive to synergistic cytotoxicity in B-cell lymphoma.

Bendamustine alone resulted in moderate levels of apoptosis induction in MCL cell lines (JeKo-1 and Mino), and in MCL and splenic marginal zone lymphoma (a type of B-cell lymphoma) primary cells. An additive effect in cell killing was observed when combined with SGI-1776. Expectedly, SGI-1776 effectively decreased global RNA and protein synthesis levels, while bendamustine significantly inhibited DNA synthesis and generated DNA damage response. In combination, intensified inhibitory effects in DNA, RNA and protein syntheses were observed. Together, these data suggested feasibility of using Pim kinase inhibitor in combination with chemotherapeutic agents such as bendamustine in B-cell lymphoma, and provided foundation of their mechanism of actions in lymphoma cells.


Pim kinases, SGI-1776, transcription, translation, apoptosis, bendamustine, combination therapy, mantle cell lymphoma, B-cell lymphoma