Biochem. Soc. Trans. 44 (2) 371-376 [2016-04-15; online 2016-04-14]
Chimaeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells have shown impressive results in patients with B-cell leukaemia. Yet, in patients with lymphoma durable responses are still rare and heavy preconditioning required. Apoptosis resistance is considered a hallmark of cancer, often conveyed by a halted apoptosis signalling. Tumours regularly skew the balance of the components of the apoptotic machinery either through up-regulating anti-apoptotic proteins or silencing pro-apoptotic ones. Malignant B-cells frequently up-regulate anti-apoptotic B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family proteins leading to therapy resistance. CAR T-cells kill tumour cells via apoptosis induction and their efficacy may be affected by the level of Bcl-2 family proteins. Hence, there is an interesting possibility to increase the effect of CAR T-cell therapy by combining it with apoptosis inhibitor blockade agents. Compounds that inhibit Bcl-2, B-cell lymphoma extra large (Bcl-xL) and Bcl-2-like protein 2 (Bcl-w), can restore execution of apoptosis in tumour cells or sensitize them to other apoptosis-dependent treatments. Hence, there is a great interest to combine such agents with CAR T-cell therapy to potentiate the effect of CAR T-cell killing. This review will focus on the potential of targeting the apoptotic machinery to sensitize tumour cells to CAR T-cell killing.