Targeted cancer therapies have produced substantial clinical responses, but most tumors develop resistance to these drugs. Here, we describe a pharmacogenomic platform that facilitates rapid discovery of drug combinations that can overcome resistance. We established cell culture models derived from biopsy samples of lung cancer patients whose disease had progressed while on treatment with EGFR or ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors and then subjected these cells to genetic analyses and a pharmacological screen. Multiple effective drug combinations were identified. For example, the combination of ALK and MEK inhibitors was active in an ALK-positive resistant tumor that had developed a MAP2K1 activating mutation, and the combination of EGFR and FGFR inhibitors was active in an EGFR mutant resistant cancer with a novel mutation in FGFR3. Combined ALK and SRC inhibition was effective in several ALK-driven patient-derived models, a result not predicted by genetic analysis alone. With further refinements, this strategy could help direct therapeutic choices for individual patients.
Purpose: Improved therapeutic approaches are needed for the treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). As dual MEK and PI3K inhibition is presently being employed in clinical trials for PDAC patients, we sought to test the efficacy of combined targeting of these pathways in PDAC using both in vitro drug screens and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs). Experimental Design: We performed high-throughput screening of >500 human cancer cell lines (including 46 PDAC lines), for sensitivity to 50 clinically-relevant compounds, including MEK and PI3K inhibitors. We tested the top hit in the screen, the MEK1/2 inhibitor, AZD-6244, for efficacy alone or in combination with the PI3K inhibitors, BKM-120 or GDC-0941, in a KRASG12D-driven GEMM that recapitulates the histopathogenesis of human PDAC. Results: In vitro screens revealed that PDAC cell lines are relatively resistant to single-agent therapies. The response profile to the MEK1/2 inhibitor, AZD-6244, was an outlier, showing the highest selective efficacy in PDAC. While MEK inhibition alone was mainly cytostatic, apoptosis was induced when combined with PI3K inhibitors (BKM-120 or GDC-0941). When tested in a PDAC GEMM and compared to the single agents or vehicle controls, the combination delayed tumor formation in the setting of prevention and extended survival when used to treat advanced tumors, although no durable responses were observed. Conclusions: Our studies point to important contributions of MEK and PI3K signaling to PDAC pathogenesis and suggest that dual targeting of these pathways may provide benefit in some PDAC patients.
MYC proteins are major drivers of cancer yet are considered undruggable because their DNA binding domains are composed of two extended alpha helices with no apparent surfaces for small-molecule binding. Proteolytic degradation of MYCN protein is regulated in part by a kinase-independent function of Aurora A. We describe a class of inhibitors that disrupts the native conformation of Aurora A and drives the degradation of MYCN protein across MYCN-driven cancers. Comparison of cocrystal structures with structure-activity relationships across multiple inhibitors and chemotypes, coupled with mechanistic studies and biochemical assays, delineates an Aurora A conformation-specific effect on proteolytic degradation of MYCN, rather than simple nanomolar-level inhibition of Aurora A kinase activity.
Recently, several high profile studies collected cell viability data from panels of cancer cell lines treated with many drugs applied at different concentrations. Such drug sensitivity data for cancer cell lines provide suggestive treatments for different types and subtypes of cancer. Visualization of these datasets can reveal patterns that may not be obvious by examining the data without such efforts. Here we introduce Drug/Cell-line Browser (DCB), an online interactive HTML5 data visualization tool for interacting with three of the recently published datasets of cancer cell lines/drug-viability studies. DCB uses clustering and canvas visualization of the drugs and the cell lines, as well as a bar graph that summarizes drug effectiveness for the tissue of origin or the cancer subtypes for single or multiple drugs. DCB can help in understanding drug response patterns and prioritizing drug/cancer cell line interactions by tissue of origin or cancer subtype.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are present at low concentrations in the peripheral blood of patients with solid tumors. It has been proposed that the isolation, ex vivo culture, and characterization of CTCs may provide an opportunity to noninvasively monitor the changing patterns of drug susceptibility in individual patients as their tumors acquire new mutations. In a proof-of-concept study, we established CTC cultures from six patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Three of five CTC lines tested were tumorigenic in mice. Genome sequencing of the CTC lines revealed preexisting mutations in the PIK3CA gene and newly acquired mutations in the estrogen receptor gene (ESR1), PIK3CA gene, and fibroblast growth factor receptor gene (FGFR2), among others. Drug sensitivity testing of CTC lines with multiple mutations revealed potential new therapeutic targets. With optimization of CTC culture conditions, this strategy may help identify the best therapies for individual cancer patients over the course of their disease.
Loss-of-function mutations in p16(INK4A) (CDKN2A) occur in approximately 80% of sporadic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), contributing to its early progression. Although this loss activates the cell-cycle-dependent kinases CDK4/6, which have been considered as drug targets for many years, p16(INK4A)-deficient PDAC cells are inherently resistant to CDK4/6 inhibitors. This study searched for targeted therapies that might synergize with CDK4/6 inhibition in this setting. We report that the IGF1R/IR inhibitor BMS-754807 cooperated with the CDK4/6 inhibitor PD-0332991 to strongly block proliferation of p16(INK4A)-deficient PDAC cells in vitro and in vivo. Sensitivity to this drug combination correlated with reduced activity of the master cell growth regulator mTORC1. Accordingly, replacing the IGF1R/IR inhibitor with the rapalog inhibitor temsirolimus broadened the sensitivity of PDAC cells to CDK4/6 inhibition. Our results establish targeted therapy combinations with robust cytostatic activity in p16(INK4A)-deficient PDAC cells and possible implications for improving treatment of a broad spectrum of human cancers characterized by p16(INK4A) loss.
Preclinical studies have documented antitumor activity of PARP inhibition both in vitro and in vivo, against Ewing sarcoma cells. This study aimed to translate that observation into a clinical trial to assess the efficacy and tolerability of olaparib, a PARP inhibitor, in patients with advanced Ewing sarcoma (EWS) progressing after prior chemotherapy.
Tumour oncogenes include transcription factors that co-opt the general transcriptional machinery to sustain the oncogenic state, but direct pharmacological inhibition of transcription factors has so far proven difficult. However, the transcriptional machinery contains various enzymatic cofactors that can be targeted for the development of new therapeutic candidates, including cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Here we present the discovery and characterization of a covalent CDK7 inhibitor, THZ1, which has the unprecedented ability to target a remote cysteine residue located outside of the canonical kinase domain, providing an unanticipated means of achieving selectivity for CDK7. Cancer cell-line profiling indicates that a subset of cancer cell lines, including human T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), have exceptional sensitivity to THZ1. Genome-wide analysis in Jurkat T-ALL cells shows that THZ1 disproportionally affects transcription of RUNX1 and suggests that sensitivity to THZ1 may be due to vulnerability conferred by the RUNX1 super-enhancer and the key role of RUNX1 in the core transcriptional regulatory circuitry of these tumour cells. Pharmacological modulation of CDK7 kinase activity may thus provide an approach to identify and treat tumour types that are dependent on transcription for maintenance of the oncogenic state.
Therapeutics that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) can enhance the cytotoxic effects of ionizing radiation (IR). However, predictive genomic biomarkers of this radiosensitization have remained elusive. By screening 40 non-small cell lung cancer cell (NSCLC) lines, we established a surprising positive correlation between the presence of a KRAS mutation and radiosensitization by the EGFR inhibitors erlotinib and cetuximab. EGFR signaling in KRAS-mutant NSCLC cells promotes chromatin condensation in vitro and in vivo, thereby restricting the number of DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) produced by a given dose of IR. Chromatin condensation in interphase cells is characterized by an unexpected mitosis-like colocalization of serine 10 phosphorylation and lysine 9 trimethylation on histone H3. Aurora B promotes this process in a manner that is codependent upon EGFR and protein kinase C ? (PKC?). PKC?, in addition to MEK/ERK signaling, is required for the suppression of DSB-inducible premature senescence by EGFR. Blockade of autophagy results in a mutant KRAS-dependent senescence-to-apoptosis switch in cancer cells treated with IR and erlotinib. In conclusion, we identify EGFR as a molecular target to overcome a novel mechanism of radioresistance in KRAS-mutant tumor cells, which stands in contrast to the unresponsiveness of KRAS-mutant cancers to EGFR-directed agents in monotherapy. Our findings may reposition EGFR-targeted agents for combination with DSB-inducing therapies in KRAS-mutant NSCLC.
The National Institutes of Health Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) program is generating extensive multidimensional data sets, including biochemical, genome-wide transcriptional, and phenotypic cellular response signatures to a variety of small-molecule and genetic perturbations with the goal of creating a sustainable, widely applicable, and readily accessible systems biology knowledge resource. Integration and analysis of diverse LINCS data sets depend on the availability of sufficient metadata to describe the assays and screening results and on their syntactic, structural, and semantic consistency. Here we report metadata specifications for the most important molecular and cellular components and recommend them for adoption beyond the LINCS project. We focus on the minimum required information to model LINCS assays and results based on a number of use cases, and we recommend controlled terminologies and ontologies to annotate assays with syntactic consistency and semantic integrity. We also report specifications for a simple annotation format (SAF) to describe assays and screening results based on our metadata specifications with explicit controlled vocabularies. SAF specifically serves to programmatically access and exchange LINCS data as a prerequisite for a distributed information management infrastructure. We applied the metadata specifications to annotate large numbers of LINCS cell lines, proteins, and small molecules. The resources generated and presented here are freely available.
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is important for many developmental events and has been linked to tumor dissemination and therapeutic resistance. Salt and colleagues identify how EMT affects how proliferation signals flow to phosphoinositide 3-kinase in non-small cell lung cancer.
The PI3K pathway is genetically altered in excess of 70% of breast cancers, largely through PIK3CA mutation and HER2 amplification. Preclinical studies have suggested that these subsets of breast cancers are particularly sensitive to PI3K inhibitors; however, the reasons for this heightened sensitivity are mainly unknown. We investigated the signaling effects of PI3K inhibition in PIK3CA mutant and HER2 amplified breast cancers using PI3K inhibitors currently in clinical trials. Unexpectedly, we found that in PIK3CA mutant and HER2 amplified breast cancers sensitive to PI3K inhibitors, PI3K inhibition led to a rapid suppression of Rac1/p21-activated kinase (PAK)/protein kinase C-RAF (C-RAF)/ protein kinase MEK (MEK)/ERK signaling that did not involve RAS. Furthermore, PI3K inhibition led to an ERK-dependent up-regulation of the proapoptotic protein, BIM, followed by induction of apoptosis. Expression of a constitutively active form of Rac1 in these breast cancer models blocked PI3Ki-induced down-regulation of ERK phosphorylation, apoptosis, and mitigated PI3K inhibitor sensitivity in vivo. In contrast, protein kinase AKT inhibitors failed to block MEK/ERK signaling, did not up-regulate BIM, and failed to induce apoptosis. Finally, we identified phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate-dependent Rac exchanger 1 (P-Rex1) as the PI(3,4,5)P3-dependent guanine exchange factor for Rac1 responsible for regulation of the Rac1/C-RAF/MEK/ERK pathway in these cells. The expression level of P-Rex1 correlates with sensitivity to PI3K inhibitors in these breast cancer cell lines. Thus, PI3K inhibitors have enhanced activity in PIK3CA mutant and HER2 amplified breast cancers in which PI3K inhibition down-regulates both the AKT and Rac1/ERK pathways. In addition, P-Rex1 may serve as a biomarker to predict response to single-agent PI3K inhibitors within this subset of breast cancers.
Colorectal cancers harboring KRAS or BRAF mutations are refractory to current targeted therapies. Using data from a high-throughput drug screen, we have developed a novel therapeutic strategy that targets the apoptotic machinery using the BCL-2 family inhibitor ABT-263 (navitoclax) in combination with a TORC1/2 inhibitor, AZD8055. This combination leads to efficient apoptosis specifically in KRAS- and BRAF-mutant but not wild-type (WT) colorectal cancer cells. This specific susceptibility results from TORC1/2 inhibition leading to suppression of MCL-1 expression in mutant, but not WT, colorectal cancers, leading to abrogation of BIM/MCL-1 complexes. This combination strategy leads to tumor regressions in both KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer xenograft and genetically engineered mouse models of colorectal cancer, but not in the corresponding KRAS-WT colorectal cancer models. These data suggest that the combination of BCL-2/BCL-XL inhibitors with TORC1/2 inhibitors constitutes a promising targeted therapy strategy to treat these recalcitrant cancers.
The development of strategies to eradicate primary human acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) cells is a major challenge to the leukemia research field. In particular, primitive leukemia cells, often termed leukemia stem cells, are typically refractory to many forms of therapy. To investigate improved strategies for targeting of human AML cells we compared the molecular mechanisms regulating oxidative state in primitive (CD34(+)) leukemic versus normal specimens. Our data indicate that CD34(+) AML cells have elevated expression of multiple glutathione pathway regulatory proteins, presumably as a mechanism to compensate for increased oxidative stress in leukemic cells. Consistent with this observation, CD34(+) AML cells have lower levels of reduced glutathione and increased levels of oxidized glutathione compared with normal CD34(+) cells. These findings led us to hypothesize that AML cells will be hypersensitive to inhibition of glutathione metabolism. To test this premise, we identified compounds such as parthenolide (PTL) or piperlongumine that induce almost complete glutathione depletion and severe cell death in CD34(+) AML cells. Importantly, these compounds only induce limited and transient glutathione depletion as well as significantly less toxicity in normal CD34(+) cells. We further determined that PTL perturbs glutathione homeostasis by a multifactorial mechanism, which includes inhibiting key glutathione metabolic enzymes (GCLC and GPX1), as well as direct depletion of glutathione. These findings demonstrate that primitive leukemia cells are uniquely sensitive to agents that target aberrant glutathione metabolism, an intrinsic property of primary human AML cells.
In patients with lung cancer whose tumors harbor activating mutations in the EGF receptor (EGFR), increased responses to platinum-based chemotherapies are seen compared with wild-type cancers. However, the mechanisms underlying this association have remained elusive. Here, we describe a cellular phenotype of cross-linker sensitivity in a subset of EGFR-mutant lung cancer cell lines that is reminiscent of the defects seen in cells impaired in the Fanconi anemia pathway, including a pronounced G2-M cell-cycle arrest and chromosomal radial formation. We identified a defect downstream of FANCD2 at the level of recruitment of FAN1 nuclease and DNA interstrand cross-link (ICL) unhooking. The effect of EGFR mutation was epistatic with FANCD2. Consistent with the known role of FANCD2 in promoting RAD51 foci formation and homologous recombination repair (HRR), EGFR-mutant cells also exhibited an impaired RAD51 foci response to ICLs, but not to DNA double-strand breaks. EGFR kinase inhibition affected RAD51 foci formation neither in EGFR-mutant nor wild-type cells. In contrast, EGFR depletion or overexpression of mutant EGFR in wild-type cells suppressed RAD51 foci, suggesting an EGFR kinase-independent regulation of DNA repair. Interestingly, EGFR-mutant cells treated with the PARP inhibitor olaparib also displayed decreased FAN1 foci induction, coupled with a putative block in a late HRR step. As a result, EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells exhibited olaparib sensitivity in vitro and in vivo. Our findings provide insight into the mechanisms of cisplatin and PARP inhibitor sensitivity of EGFR-mutant cells, yielding potential therapeutic opportunities for further treatment individualization in this genetically defined subset of lung cancer.
Cancer cells can be drug resistant due to genetic variation at multiple steps in the drug response pathway, including drug efflux pumping, target mutation, and blunted apoptotic response. These are not discriminated by conventional cell survival assays. Here, we report a rapid and convenient high-content cell-imaging assay that measures multiple physiological changes in cells responding to antimitotic small-molecule drugs. Our one-step, no-wash assay uses three dyes to stain living cells and is much more accurate for scoring weakly adherent mitotic and apoptotic cells than conventional antibody-based assays. We profiled responses of 33 cell lines to 8 antimitotic drugs at multiple concentrations and time points using this assay and deposited our data and assay protocols into a public database (http://lincs.hms.harvard.edu/). Our data discriminated between alternative mechanisms that compromise drug sensitivity to paclitaxel and revealed an unexpected bell-shaped dose-response curve for BI2536, a highly selective inhibitor of Polo-like kinases. Our approach can be generalized, is scalable, and should therefore facilitate identification of molecular biomarkers for mechanisms of drug insensitivity in high-throughput screens and other assays.
Bromodomain inhibition comprises a promising therapeutic strategy in cancer, particularly for hematologic malignancies. To date, however, genomic biomarkers to direct clinical translation have been lacking. We conducted a cell-based screen of genetically defined cancer cell lines using a prototypical inhibitor of BET bromodomains. Integration of genetic features with chemosensitivity data revealed a robust correlation between MYCN amplification and sensitivity to bromodomain inhibition. We characterized the mechanistic and translational significance of this finding in neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with frequent amplification of MYCN. Genome-wide expression analysis showed downregulation of the MYCN transcriptional program accompanied by suppression of MYCN transcription. Functionally, bromodomain-mediated inhibition of MYCN impaired growth and induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma. BRD4 knockdown phenocopied these effects, establishing BET bromodomains as transcriptional regulators of MYCN. BET inhibition conferred a significant survival advantage in 3 in vivo neuroblastoma models, providing a compelling rationale for developing BET bromodomain inhibitors in patients with neuroblastoma.
The development of resistance to chemotherapies represents a significant barrier to successful cancer treatment. Resistance mechanisms are complex, can involve diverse and often unexpected cellular processes, and can vary with both the underlying genetic lesion and the origin or type of tumor. For these reasons developing experimental strategies that could be used to understand, identify and predict mechanisms of resistance in different malignant cells would be a major advance.
Homologous recombination repair (HRR) is a critical pathway for the repair of DNA damage caused by cisplatin or poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. HRR may be impaired by multiple mechanisms in cancer, which complicates assessing the functional HRR status in cells. Here, we monitored the ability of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells to form subnuclear foci of DNA repair proteins as a surrogate of HRR proficiency.
CUB domain-containing protein 1 (CDCP1) is a transmembrane protein that is highly expressed in stem cells and frequently overexpressed and tyrosine-phosphorylated in cancer. CDCP1 promotes cancer cell metastasis. However, the mechanisms that regulate CDCP1 are not well-defined. Here we show that hypoxia induces CDCP1 expression and tyrosine phosphorylation in hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-2?-, but not HIF-1?-, dependent fashion. shRNA knockdown of CDCP1 impairs cancer cell migration under hypoxic conditions, whereas overexpression of HIF-2? promotes the growth of tumor xenografts in association with enhanced CDCP1 expression and tyrosine phosphorylation. Immunohistochemistry analysis of tissue microarray samples from tumors of patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma shows that increased CDCP1 expression correlates with decreased overall survival. Together, these data support a critical role for CDCP1 as a unique HIF-2? target gene involved in the regulation of cancer metastasis, and suggest that CDCP1 is a biomarker and potential therapeutic target for metastatic cancers.
Predicting the response of a specific cancer to a therapy is a major goal in modern oncology that should ultimately lead to a personalised treatment. High-throughput screenings of potentially active compounds against a panel of genomically heterogeneous cancer cell lines have unveiled multiple relationships between genomic alterations and drug responses. Various computational approaches have been proposed to predict sensitivity based on genomic features, while others have used the chemical properties of the drugs to ascertain their effect. In an effort to integrate these complementary approaches, we developed machine learning models to predict the response of cancer cell lines to drug treatment, quantified through IC?? values, based on both the genomic features of the cell lines and the chemical properties of the considered drugs. Models predicted IC?? values in a 8-fold cross-validation and an independent blind test with coefficient of determination R² of 0.72 and 0.64 respectively. Furthermore, models were able to predict with comparable accuracy (R² of 0.61) IC50s of cell lines from a tissue not used in the training stage. Our in silico models can be used to optimise the experimental design of drug-cell screenings by estimating a large proportion of missing IC?? values rather than experimentally measuring them. The implications of our results go beyond virtual drug screening design: potentially thousands of drugs could be probed in silico to systematically test their potential efficacy as anti-tumour agents based on their structure, thus providing a computational framework to identify new drug repositioning opportunities as well as ultimately be useful for personalized medicine by linking the genomic traits of patients to drug sensitivity.
The mechanisms by which inhibition of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) sensitizes non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells to ionizing radiation remain poorly understood. We set out to characterize the radiosensitizing effects of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib and the monoclonal antibody cetuximab in NSCLC cells that contain wild-type p53. Unexpectedly, EGFR inhibition led to pronounced cellular senescence but not apoptosis of irradiated cells, both in vitro and in vivo. Senescence was completely dependent on wild-type p53 and associated with a reduction in cell number as well as impaired clonogenic radiation survival. Study of ten additional NSCLC cell lines revealed that senescence is a prominent mechanism of radiosensitization in 45% of cell lines and occurs not only in cells with wild-type p53 but also in cells with mutant p53, where it is associated with an induction of p16. Interestingly, senescence and radiosensitization were linked to an increase in residual radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks irrespective of p53/p16 status. This effect of EGFR inhibition was at least partially mediated by disruption of the MEK-ERK pathway. Thus, our data indicate a common mechanism of radiosensitization by erlotinib or cetuximab across diverse genetic backgrounds. Our findings also suggest that assays that are able to capture the initial proliferative delay that is associated with senescence should be useful for screening large cell line panels to identify genomic biomarkers of EGFR inhibitor-mediated radiosensitization.
Cancers with specific genetic mutations are susceptible to selective kinase inhibitors. However, there is a wide spectrum of benefit among cancers harboring the same sensitizing genetic mutations. Herein, we measured apoptotic rates among cell lines sharing the same driver oncogene following treatment with the corresponding kinase inhibitor. There was a wide range of kinase inhibitor-induced apoptosis despite comparable inhibition of the target and associated downstream signaling pathways. Surprisingly, pretreatment RNA levels of the BH3-only pro-apoptotic BIM strongly predicted the capacity of EGFR, HER2, and PI3K inhibitors to induce apoptosis in EGFR-mutant, HER2-amplified, and PIK3CA-mutant cancers, respectively, but BIM levels did not predict responsiveness to standard chemotherapies. Furthermore, BIM RNA levels in EGFR-mutant lung cancer specimens predicted response and duration of clinical benefit from EGFR inhibitors. These findings suggest assessment of BIM levels in treatment-naïve tumor biopsies may indicate the degree of benefit from single-agent kinase inhibitors in multiple oncogene-addiction paradigms.
The STAT3 transcription factor is an important regulator of stem cell self-renewal, cancer cell survival, and inflammation. In the pancreas, STAT3 is dispensable for normal development, whereas the majority of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) show constitutive activation of STAT3, suggesting its potential as a therapeutic target in this cancer. Here, we sought to define the mechanisms of STAT3 activation and its functional importance in PDAC pathogenesis. Large-scale screening of cancer cell lines with a JAK2 inhibitor that blocks STAT3 function revealed a more than 30-fold range in sensitivity in PDAC, and showed a close correlation of sensitivity with levels of tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT3 and of the gp130 receptor, an upstream signaling component. Correspondingly, upregulation of the IL6/LIF-gp130 pathway accounted for the strong STAT3 activation in PDAC subsets. To define functions of STAT3 in vivo, we developed mouse models that test the impact of conditional inactivation of STAT3 in KRAS-driven PDAC. We showed that STAT3 is required for the development of the earliest premalignant pancreatic lesions, acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN). Moreover, acute STAT3 inactivation blocked PDAC initiation in a second in vivo model. Our results show that STAT3 has critical roles throughout the course of PDAC pathogenesis, supporting the development of therapeutic approaches targeting this pathway. Moreover, our work suggests that gp130 and phospho-STAT3 expression may be effective biomarkers for predicting response to JAK2 inhibitors.
The echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 (EML4)-anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) fusion oncogene represents a molecular target in a small subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs). This fusion leads to constitutive ALK activation with potent transforming activity. In a pivotal phase 1 clinical trial, the ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) crizotinib (PF-02341066) demonstrated impressive antitumor activity in the majority of patients with NSCLC harboring ALK fusions. However, despite these remarkable initial responses, cancers eventually develop resistance to crizotinib, usually within 1 y, thereby limiting the potential clinical benefit. To determine how cancers acquire resistance to ALK inhibitors, we established a model of acquired resistance to crizotinib by exposing a highly sensitive EML4-ALK-positive NSCLC cell line to increasing doses of crizotinib until resistance emerged. We found that cells resistant to intermediate doses of crizotinib developed amplification of the EML4-ALK gene. Cells resistant to higher doses (1 ?M) also developed a gatekeeper mutation, L1196M, within the kinase domain, rendering EML4-ALK insensitive to crizotinib. This gatekeeper mutation was readily detected using a unique and highly sensitive allele-specific PCR assay. Although crizotinib was ineffectual against EML4-ALK harboring the gatekeeper mutation, we observed that two structurally different ALK inhibitors, NVP-TAE684 and AP26113, were highly active against the resistant cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, these resistant cells remained highly sensitive to the Hsp90 inhibitor 17-AAG. Thus, we have developed a model of acquired resistance to ALK inhibitors and have shown that second-generation ALK TKIs or Hsp90 inhibitors are effective in treating crizotinib-resistant tumors harboring secondary gatekeeper mutations.
Therapies inhibiting receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are effective against some human cancers when they lead to simultaneous downregulation of PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK signaling. However, mutant KRAS has the capacity to directly activate ERK and PI3K signaling, and this is thought to underlie the resistance of KRAS mutant cancers to RTK inhibitors. Here, we have elucidated the molecular regulation of both the PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK signaling pathways in KRAS mutant colorectal cancer cells and identified combination therapies that lead to robust cancer cell apoptosis. KRAS knockdown using shRNA suppressed ERK signaling in all of the human KRAS mutant colorectal cancer cell lines examined. However, no decrease, and actually a modest increase, in AKT phosphorylation was often seen. By performing PI3K immunoprecipitations, we determined that RTKs, often IGF-IR, regulated PI3K signaling in the KRAS mutant cell lines. This conclusion was also supported by the observation that specific RTK inhibition led to marked suppression of PI3K signaling and biochemical assessment of patient specimens. Interestingly, combination of RTK and MEK inhibitors led to concomitant inhibition of PI3K and MEK signaling, marked growth suppression, and robust apoptosis of human KRAS mutant colorectal cancer cell lines in vitro and upon xenografting in mice. These findings provide a framework for utilizing RTK inhibitors in the treatment of KRAS mutant colorectal cancers.
The activation of various P2 receptors (P2R) by extracellular nucleotides promotes diverse cellular events, including the stimulation of cell signaling protein and increases in [Ca(2+)](i). We report that some agents that can block P2X(7)R receptors also promote diverse P2X(7)R-independent effects on cell signaling.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that cancer drug therapies can only reach their full potential through appropriate patient selection. Matching drugs and cancer patients has proven to be a complex challenge, due in large part to the substantial molecular heterogeneity inherent to human cancers. This is not only a major hurdle to the improvement of the use of current treatments but also for the development of novel therapies and the ability to steer them to the relevant clinical indications. In this commentary we discuss recent studies from Kuo et al., published this month in BMC Medicine, in which they used a panel of cancer cell lines as a model for capturing patient heterogeneity at the genomic and proteomic level in order to identify potential biomarkers for predicting the clinical activity of a novel candidate chemotherapeutic across a patient population. The findings highlight the ability of a systems approach to develop a better understanding of the properties of novel candidate therapeutics and to guide clinical testing and application.See the associated research paper by Kuo et al: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/7/77.
Effective targeted therapeutics for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are lacking. Here, we uncover Mcl-1 as a dominant and tissue-specific survival factor in SCC, providing a roadmap for a new therapeutic approach. Treatment with the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor vorinostat regulates Bcl-2 family member expression to disable the Mcl-1 axis and thereby induce apoptosis in SCC cells. Although Mcl-1 dominance renders SCC cells resistant to the BH3-mimetic ABT-737, vorinostat primes them for sensitivity to ABT-737 by shuttling Bim from Mcl-1 to Bcl-2/Bcl-xl, resulting in dramatic synergy for this combination and sustained tumor regression in vivo. Moreover, somatic FBW7 mutation in SCC is associated with stabilized Mcl-1 and high Bim levels, resulting in a poor response to standard chemotherapy but a robust response to HDAC inhibitors and enhanced synergy with the combination vorinostat/ABT-737. Collectively, our findings provide a biochemical rationale and predictive markers for the application of this therapeutic combination in SCC.
Dysregulation of the PI3K/mTOR pathway, either through amplifications, deletions, or as a direct result of mutations, has been closely linked to the development and progression of a wide range of cancers. Moreover, this pathway activation is a poor prognostic marker for many tumor types and confers resistance to various cancer therapies. Here, we describe VS-5584, a novel, low-molecular weight compound with equivalent potent activity against mTOR (IC(50) = 37 nmol/L) and all class I phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) isoforms IC(50): PI3K? = 16 nmol/L; PI3K? = 68 nmol/L; PI3K? = 25 nmol/L; PI3K? = 42 nmol/L, without relevant activity on 400 lipid and protein kinases. VS-5584 shows robust modulation of cellular PI3K/mTOR pathways, inhibiting phosphorylation of substrates downstream of PI3K and mTORC1/2. A large human cancer cell line panel screen (436 lines) revealed broad antiproliferative sensitivity and that cells harboring mutations in PI3KCA are generally more sensitive toward VS-5584 treatment. VS-5584 exhibits favorable pharmacokinetic properties after oral dosing in mice and is well tolerated. VS-5584 induces long-lasting and dose-dependent inhibition of PI3K/mTOR signaling in tumor tissue, leading to tumor growth inhibition in various rapalog-sensitive and -resistant human xenograft models. Furthermore, VS-5584 is synergistic with an EGF receptor inhibitor in a gastric tumor model. The unique selectivity profile and favorable pharmacologic and pharmaceutical properties of VS-5584 and its efficacy in a wide range of human tumor models supports further investigations of VS-5584 in clinical trials.
KRAS is the most commonly mutated oncogene, yet no effective targeted therapies exist for KRAS mutant cancers. We developed a pooled shRNA-drug screen strategy to identify genes that, when inhibited, cooperate with MEK inhibitors to effectively treat KRAS mutant cancer cells. The anti-apoptotic BH3 family gene BCL-XL emerged as a top hit through this approach. ABT-263 (navitoclax), a chemical inhibitor that blocks the ability of BCL-XL to bind and inhibit pro-apoptotic proteins, in combination with a MEK inhibitor led to dramatic apoptosis in many KRAS mutant cell lines from different tissue types. This combination caused marked in vivo tumor regressions in KRAS mutant xenografts and in a genetically engineered KRAS-driven lung cancer mouse model, supporting combined BCL-XL/MEK inhibition as a potential therapeutic approach for KRAS mutant cancers.
The pneumococcal type 1 pilus is an inflammatory and adherence-promoting structure associated with increased virulence in mouse models. We show that RrgA, an ancillary pilus subunit devoid of a lipidation motif, particularly when presented as part of an oligomer, is a TLR2 agonist. The surface-exposed domain III, and in particular a 49-amino acid sequence (P3), of the protein is responsible for the TLR2 activity of RrgA. A pneumococcal mutant carrying RrgA with a deletion of the P3 region was significantly reduced in its ability to activate TLR2 and induce TNF-? responses after mouse intraperitoneal infection, whereas no such difference could be noted when TLR2(-/-) mice were challenged, further implicating this region in recognition by TLR2. Thus, we conclude that the type 1 pneumococcal pilus can activate cells via TLR2, and the ancillary pilus subunit RrgA is a key component of this activation.
Alterations in cancer genomes strongly influence clinical responses to treatment and in many instances are potent biomarkers for response to drugs. The Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC) database (www.cancerRxgene.org) is the largest public resource for information on drug sensitivity in cancer cells and molecular markers of drug response. Data are freely available without restriction. GDSC currently contains drug sensitivity data for almost 75 000 experiments, describing response to 138 anticancer drugs across almost 700 cancer cell lines. To identify molecular markers of drug response, cell line drug sensitivity data are integrated with large genomic datasets obtained from the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer database, including information on somatic mutations in cancer genes, gene amplification and deletion, tissue type and transcriptional data. Analysis of GDSC data is through a web portal focused on identifying molecular biomarkers of drug sensitivity based on queries of specific anticancer drugs or cancer genes. Graphical representations of the data are used throughout with links to related resources and all datasets are fully downloadable. GDSC provides a unique resource incorporating large drug sensitivity and genomic datasets to facilitate the discovery of new therapeutic biomarkers for cancer therapies.
Hedgehog (HH) pathway Smoothened (Smo) inhibitors are active against Gorlin syndrome-associated basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and medulloblastoma where Patched (Ptch) mutations occur. We interrogated 705 epithelial cancer cell lines for growth response to the Smo inhibitor cyclopamine and for expressed HH pathway-regulated species in a linked genetic database. Ptch and Smo mutations that respectively conferred Smo inhibitor response or resistance were undetected. Previous studies revealed HH pathway activation in lung cancers. Therefore, findings were validated using lung cancer cell lines, transgenic and transplantable murine lung cancer models, and human normal-malignant lung tissue arrays in addition to testing other Smo inhibitors. Cyclopamine sensitivity most significantly correlated with high cyclin E (P=0.000009) and low insulin-like growth factor binding protein 6 (IGFBP6) (P=0.000004) levels. Gli family members were associated with response. Cyclopamine resistance occurred with high GILZ (P=0.002) expression. Newer Smo inhibitors exhibited a pattern of sensitivity similar to cyclopamine. Gain of cyclin E or loss of IGFBP6 in lung cancer cells significantly increased Smo inhibitor response. Cyclin E-driven transgenic lung cancers expressed a gene profile implicating HH pathway activation. Cyclopamine treatment significantly reduced proliferation of murine and human lung cancers. Smo inhibition reduced lung cancer formation in a syngeneic mouse model. In human normal-malignant lung tissue arrays cyclin E, IGFBP6, Gli1 and GILZ were each differentially expressed. Together, these findings indicate that Smo inhibitors should be considered in cancers beyond those with activating HH pathway mutations. This includes tumors that express genes indicating basal HH pathway activation.
Genetic approaches have shown that the p110? isoform of class Ia phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) is essential for the growth of PTEN-null tumors. Thus, it is desirable to develop p110?-specific inhibitors for cancer therapy. Using a panel of PI3K isoform-specific cellular assays, we screened a collection of compounds possessing activities against kinases in the PI3K superfamily and identified a potent and selective p110? inhibitor: KIN-193. We show that KIN-193 is efficacious specifically in blocking AKT signaling and tumor growth that are dependent on p110? activation or PTEN loss. Broad profiling across a panel of 422 human tumor cell lines shows that the PTEN mutation status of cancer cells strongly correlates with their response to KIN-193. Together, our data provide the first pharmacologic evidence that PTEN-deficient tumors are dependent on p110? in animals and suggest that KIN-193 can be pursued as a drug to treat tumors that are dependent on p110? while sparing other PI3K isoforms.
Clinical responses to anticancer therapies are often restricted to a subset of patients. In some cases, mutated cancer genes are potent biomarkers for responses to targeted agents. Here, to uncover new biomarkers of sensitivity and resistance to cancer therapeutics, we screened a panel of several hundred cancer cell lines--which represent much of the tissue-type and genetic diversity of human cancers--with 130 drugs under clinical and preclinical investigation. In aggregate, we found that mutated cancer genes were associated with cellular response to most currently available cancer drugs. Classic oncogene addiction paradigms were modified by additional tissue-specific or expression biomarkers, and some frequently mutated genes were associated with sensitivity to a broad range of therapeutic agents. Unexpected relationships were revealed, including the marked sensitivity of Ewings sarcoma cells harbouring the EWS (also known as EWSR1)-FLI1 gene translocation to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. By linking drug activity to the functional complexity of cancer genomes, systematic pharmacogenomic profiling in cancer cell lines provides a powerful biomarker discovery platform to guide rational cancer therapeutic strategies.
Colon cancers frequently harbor KRAS mutations, yet only a subset of KRAS mutant colon cancer cell lines are dependent upon KRAS signaling for survival. In a screen for kinases that promote survival of KRAS-dependent colon cancer cells, we found that the TAK1 kinase (MAP3K7) is required for tumor cell viability. The induction of apoptosis by RNAi-mediated depletion or pharmacologic inhibition of TAK1 is linked to its suppression of hyperactivated Wnt signaling, evident in both endogenous and genetically reconstituted cells. In APC mutant/KRAS-dependent cells, KRAS stimulates BMP-7 secretion and BMP signaling, leading to TAK1 activation and enhancement of Wnt-dependent transcription. An in vitro-derived "TAK1 dependency signature" is enriched in primary human colon cancers with mutations in both APC and KRAS, suggesting potential clinical utility in stratifying patient populations. Together, these findings identify TAK1 inhibition as a potential therapeutic strategy for a treatment-refractory subset of colon cancers exhibiting aberrant KRAS and Wnt pathway activation.
Most anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) are highly responsive to treatment with ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, patients with these cancers invariably relapse, typically within 1 year, because of the development of drug resistance. Herein, we report findings from a series of lung cancer patients (n = 18) with acquired resistance to the ALK TKI crizotinib. In about one-fourth of patients, we identified a diverse array of secondary mutations distributed throughout the ALK TK domain, including new resistance mutations located in the solvent-exposed region of the adenosine triphosphate-binding pocket, as well as amplification of the ALK fusion gene. Next-generation ALK inhibitors, developed to overcome crizotinib resistance, had differing potencies against specific resistance mutations. In addition to secondary ALK mutations and ALK gene amplification, we also identified aberrant activation of other kinases including marked amplification of KIT and increased autophosphorylation of epidermal growth factor receptor in drug-resistant tumors from patients. In a subset of patients, we found evidence of multiple resistance mechanisms developing simultaneously. These results highlight the unique features of TKI resistance in ALK-positive NSCLCs and provide the rationale for pursuing combinatorial therapeutics that are tailored to the precise resistance mechanisms identified in patients who relapse on crizotinib treatment.
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