Ex vivo drug screening defines novel drug sensitivity patterns for informing personalized therapy in myeloid neoplasms

Precision medicine approaches such as ex vivo drug sensitivity screening (DSS) are appealing to inform rational drug selection in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) and acute myeloid leukemia, given their marked biologic heterogeneity. We evaluated a novel, fully automated ex vivo DSS platform that uses high-throughput flow cytometry in 54 patients with newly diagnosed or treatment-refractory myeloid neoplasms to evaluate sensitivity (blast cytotoxicity and differentiation) to 74 US Food and Drug Administration–approved or investigational drugs and 36 drug combinations. After piloting the platform in 33 patients, we conducted a prospective feasibility study enrolling 21 patients refractory to hypomethylating agents (HMAs) to determine whether this assay could be performed within a clinically actionable time frame and could accurately predict clinical responses in vivo. When assayed for cytotoxicity, ex vivo drug sensitivity patterns were heterogeneous, but they defined distinct patient clusters with differential sensitivity to HMAs, anthracyclines, histone deacetylase inhibitors, and kinase inhibitors (P < .001 among clusters) and demonstrated synergy between HMAs and venetoclax (P < .01 for combinations vs single agents). In our feasibility study, ex vivo DSS results were available at a median of 15 days after bone marrow biopsy, and they informed personalized therapy, which frequently included venetoclax combinations, kinase inhibitors, differentiative agents, and androgens. In 21 patients with available ex vivo and in vivo clinical response data, the DSS platform had a positive predictive value of 0.92, negative predictive value of 0.82, and overall accuracy of 0.85. These data demonstrate the utility of this approach for identifying potentially useful and often novel therapeutic drugs for patients with myeloid neoplasms refractory to standard therapies.