TP53 suppression promotes erythropoiesis in del(5q) MDS, suggesting a targeted therapeutic strategy in lenalidomide-resistant patients.
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Stabilization of p53 in erythroid precursors in response to nucleosomal stress underlies the hypoplastic anemia in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) with chromosome 5q deletion [del(5q)]. We investigated whether cenersen, a clinically active 20-mer antisense oligonucleotide complementary to TP53 exon10, could suppress p53 expression and restore erythropoiesis in del(5q) MDS. Cenersen treatment of ribosomal protein S-14-deficient erythroblasts significantly reduced cellular p53 and p53-up-regulated modulator of apoptosis expression compared with controls, accompanied by a significant reduction in apoptosis and increased cell proliferation. In a two-stage erythroid differentiation assay, cenersen significantly suppressed nuclear p53 in bone marrow CD34+ cells isolated from patients with del(5q) MDS, whereas erythroid burst recovery increased proportionally to the magnitude of p53 suppression without evidence of del(5q) clonal suppression (r = -0.6; P = 0.005). To explore the effect of p53 suppression on erythropoiesis in vivo, dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid receptor-dependent p53 antagonist, was added to lenalidomide treatment in eight lower-risk, transfusion-dependent, del(5q) MDS patients with acquired drug resistance. Transfusion independence was restored in five patients accompanied by expansion of erythroid precursors and decreased cellular p53 expression. We conclude that targeted suppression of p53 could support effective erythropoiesis in lenalidomide-resistant del(5q) MDS.