Metformin accelerates the growth of BRAF V600E-driven melanoma by upregulating VEGF-A.
ABSTRACT: The antidiabetic drug metformin has antitumor activity in a variety of cancers because it blocks cell growth by inhibiting TORC1. Here, we show that melanoma cells that are driven by oncogenic BRAF are resistant to the growth-inhibitory effects of metformin because RSK sustains TORC1 activity even when AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is activated. We further show that AMPK targets the dual-specificity protein phosphatase DUSP6 for degradation and this increases ERK activity, which then upregulates the VEGF-A protein. Critically, this drives angiogenesis and accelerates the growth of BRAF-driven tumors in mice. Unexpectedly, however, when VEGF signaling is inhibited, instead of accelerating tumor growth, metformin inhibits tumor growth. Thus, we show that BRAF-driven melanoma cells are resistant to the antigrowth effects of AMPK and that AMPK mediates cell-autonomous and cell-nonautonomous effects that accelerate the growth of these cells in vivo.Metformin inhibits the growth of most tumor cells, but BRAF-mutant melanoma cells are resistant to metformin in vitro, and metformin accelerates their growth in vivo. Unexpectedly, VEGF inhibitors and metformin synergize to suppress the growth of BRAF-mutant tumors, revealing a combination of drugs that may be effective in these patients.
Project description:Biguanides, such as the diabetes therapeutics metformin and phenformin, have demonstrated antitumor activity both in vitro and in vivo. The energy-sensing AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is known to be a major cellular target of biguanides. Based on our discovery of cross-talk between the AMPK and v-Raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 (BRAF) signaling pathways, we investigated the antitumor effects of combining phenformin with a BRAF inhibitor PLX4720 on the proliferation of BRAF-mutated melanoma cells in vitro and on BRAF-driven tumor growth in vivo. Cotreatment of BRAF-mutated melanoma cell lines with phenformin and PLX4720 resulted in synergistic inhibition of cell viability, compared with the effects of the single agent alone. Moreover, treatment with phenformin significantly delayed the development of resistance to PLX4720 in cultured melanoma cells. Biochemical analyses showed that phenformin and PLX4720 exerted cooperative effects on inhibiting mTOR signaling and inducing apoptosis. Noticeably, phenformin selectively targeted subpopulations of cells expressing JARID1B, a marker for slow cycling melanoma cells, whereas PLX4720 selectively targeted JARID1B-negative cells. Finally, in contrast to their use as single agents, the combination of phenformin and PLX4720 induced tumor regression in both nude mice bearing melanoma xenografts and in a genetically engineered BRAF(V600E)/PTEN(null)-driven mouse model of melanoma. These results strongly suggest that significant therapeutic advantage may be achieved by combining AMPK activators such as phenformin with BRAF inhbitors for the treatment of melanoma.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>A molecular linkage between the MAPK and the LKB1-AMPK energy sensor pathways suggests that combined MAPK oncogene inhibition and metabolic modulation of AMPK would be more effective than either manipulation alone in melanoma cell lines.<h4>Materials and methods</h4>The combination of the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (formerly PLX4032) and metformin were tested against a panel of human melanoma cell lines with defined BRAF and NRAS mutations for effects on viability, cell cycle and apoptosis. Signaling molecules in the MAPK, PI3K-AKT and LKB1-AMPK pathways were studied by Western blot.<h4>Results</h4>Single agent metformin inhibited proliferation in 12 out of 19 cell lines irrespective of the BRAF mutation status, but in one NRASQ61K mutant cell line it powerfully stimulated cell growth. Synergistic anti-proliferative effects of the combination of metformin with vemurafenib were observed in 6 out of 11 BRAFV600E mutants, including highly synergistic effects in two BRAFV600E mutant melanoma cell lines. Antagonistic effects were noted in some cell lines, in particular in BRAFV600E mutant cell lines resistant to single agent vemurafenib. Seven out of 8 BRAF wild type cell lines showed marginally synergistic anti-proliferative effects with the combination, and one cell line had highly antagonistic effects with the combination. The differential effects were not dependent on the sensitivity to each drug alone, effects on cell cycle or signaling pathways.<h4>Conclusions</h4>The combination of vemurafenib and metformin tended to have stronger anti-proliferative effects on BRAFV600E mutant cell lines. However, determinants of vemurafenib and metformin synergism or antagonism need to be understood with greater detail before any potential clinical utility of this combination.
Project description:BRAF mutations are detected in >50% of all melanomas. These mutations impair the LKB1-AMPK signaling, an important metabolic pathway associated with cell growth, proliferation and survival. Melanoma patients with BRAF mutations are usually treated with BRAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib, but responses are short-lived as drug resistant tumors metabolically switch to mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to escape metabolic stress-induced BRAF inhibition. Additionally, a large subset of melanoma utilizes OXPHOS in their metabolism, which can confer de novo resistance to BRAF inhibitors. Therefore, uncoupling of OXPHOS to perturb energy homeostasis and to indirectly stimulate AMPK could be a novel treatment for melanoma and to overcome intrinsic and acquired resistance to BRAF inhibitors. Here, we investigated the effects of SR4 and niclosamide, two small molecule mitochondria uncouplers, on the growth and proliferation of treatment-naïve and vemurafenib-resistant melanomas in vitro and in vivo. SR4 and niclosamide inhibited melanoma proliferation irrespective of BRAF/NRAS status. Melanomas with greater OXPHOS phenotype (higher OCR/ECAR), with LKB1 mutation, or with acquired resistance to vemurafenib displayed greater sensitivity to both uncouplers. More importantly, SR4 and niclosamide inhibited tumor growth in both treatment-naïve and vemurafenib-resistant xenograft mice models. Mechanistic studies indicate both uncouplers induced energetic stress, modulated the AMPK-mTOR pathway, and promoted apoptosis without affecting MEK-ERK MAPK signaling. These results suggest that uncouplers such as SR4 and niclosamide may be useful as first line treatment against melanoma regardless of BRAF/NRAS status, and as an adjuvant therapy for patients failing MAPK inhibitors.
Project description:RAF and MEK (mitogen-activated or extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase kinase) inhibitors are effective in treating patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma. However, most responses are partial and short-lived, and many patients fail to respond at all. We found that suppression of TORC1 activity in response to RAF or MEK inhibitors, as measured by decreased phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 (P-S6), effectively predicted induction of cell death by the inhibitor in BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines. In resistant melanomas, TORC1 activity was maintained after treatment with RAF or MEK inhibitors, in some cases despite robust suppression of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. In in vivo mouse models, suppression of TORC1 after MAPK inhibition was necessary for induction of apoptosis and tumor response. Finally, in paired biopsies obtained from patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma before treatment and after initiation of RAF inhibitor therapy, P-S6 suppression predicted significantly improved progression-free survival. Such a change in P-S6 could be readily monitored in real time by serial fine-needle aspiration biopsies, making quantitation of P-S6 a valuable biomarker to guide treatment in BRAF-mutant melanoma.
Project description:Cutaneous melanoma is epidemiologically linked to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), but the molecular mechanisms by which UVR drives melanomagenesis remain unclear. The most common somatic mutation in melanoma is a V600E substitution in BRAF, which is an early event. To investigate how UVR accelerates oncogenic BRAF-driven melanomagenesis, we used a BRAF(V600E) mouse model. In mice expressing BRAF(V600E) in their melanocytes, a single dose of UVR that mimicked mild sunburn in humans induced clonal expansion of the melanocytes, and repeated doses of UVR increased melanoma burden. Here we show that sunscreen (UVA superior, UVB sun protection factor (SPF) 50) delayed the onset of UVR-driven melanoma, but only provided partial protection. The UVR-exposed tumours showed increased numbers of single nucleotide variants and we observed mutations (H39Y, S124F, R245C, R270C, C272G) in the Trp53 tumour suppressor in approximately 40% of cases. TP53 is an accepted UVR target in human non-melanoma skin cancer, but is not thought to have a major role in melanoma. However, we show that, in mice, mutant Trp53 accelerated BRAF(V600E)-driven melanomagenesis, and that TP53 mutations are linked to evidence of UVR-induced DNA damage in human melanoma. Thus, we provide mechanistic insight into epidemiological data linking UVR to acquired naevi in humans. Furthermore, we identify TP53/Trp53 as a UVR-target gene that cooperates with BRAF(V600E) to induce melanoma, providing molecular insight into how UVR accelerates melanomagenesis. Our study validates public health campaigns that promote sunscreen protection for individuals at risk of melanoma.
Project description:The emergence of drug resistance is a major obstacle for the success of targeted therapy in melanoma. Additionally, conventional chemotherapy has not been effective as drug-resistant cells escape lethal DNA damage effects by inducing growth arrest commonly referred to as cellular dormancy. We present a therapeutic strategy termed "targeted chemotherapy" by depleting protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) or its inhibition using a small molecule inhibitor (1,10-phenanthroline-5,6-dione [phendione]) in drug-resistant melanoma. Targeted chemotherapy induces the DNA damage response without causing DNA breaks or allowing cellular dormancy. Phendione treatment reduces tumor growth of BRAF<sup>V600E</sup>-driven melanoma patient-derived xenografts (PDX) and diminishes growth of NRAS<sup>Q61R</sup>-driven melanoma, a cancer with no effective therapy. Remarkably, phendione treatment inhibits the acquisition of resistance to BRAF inhibition in BRAF<sup>V600E</sup> PDX highlighting its effectiveness in combating the advent of drug resistance.
Project description:NRAS and its effector BRAF are frequently mutated in melanoma. Paradoxically, CRAF but not BRAF was shown to be critical for various RAS-driven cancers, raising the question of the role of RAF proteins in NRAS-induced melanoma. Here, using conditional ablation of Raf genes in NRAS-induced mouse melanoma models, we investigate their contribution in tumour progression, from the onset of benign tumours to malignant tumour maintenance. We show that BRAF expression is required for ERK activation and nevi development, demonstrating a critical role in the early stages of NRAS-driven melanoma. After melanoma formation, single Braf or Craf ablation is not sufficient to block tumour growth, showing redundant functions for RAF kinases. Finally, proliferation of resistant cells emerging in the absence of BRAF and CRAF remains dependent on ARAF-mediated ERK activation. These results reveal specific and compensatory functions for BRAF and CRAF and highlight an addiction to RAF signalling in NRAS-driven melanoma.
Project description:The majority of melanomas show constitutive activation of the RAS-RAF-MAP/ERK kinase (MEK)-mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. AZD6244 is a selective MEK1/2 inhibitor that markedly reduces tumor P-MAPK levels, but it produces few clinical responses in melanoma patients. An improved understanding of the determinants of resistance to AZD6244 may lead to improved patient selection and effective combinatorial approaches. The effects of AZD6244 on cell growth and survival were tested in a total of 14 Braf-mutant and 3 wild-type human cutaneous melanoma cell lines. Quantitative assessment of phospho-protein levels in the Braf-mutant cell lines by reverse phase protein array (RPPA) analysis showed no significant association between P-MEK or P-MAPK levels and AZD6244 sensitivity, but activation-specific markers in the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT pathway correlated with resistance. We also identified resistant cell lines without basal activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway. RPPA characterization of the time-dependent changes in signaling pathways revealed that AZD6244 produced durable and potent inhibition of P-MAPK in sensitive and resistant Braf-mutant cell lines, but several resistant lines showed AZD6244-induced activation of AKT. In contrast, sensitive cell lines showed AZD6244 treatment-induced upregulation of PTEN protein and mRNA expression. Inhibition of AKT, TORC1/2, or insulin-like growth factor I receptor blocked AZD6244-induced activation of AKT and resulted in synergistic cell killing with AZD6244. These findings identify basal and treatment-induced regulation of the PI3K-AKT pathway as a critical regulator of AZD6244 sensitivity in Braf-mutant cutaneous melanoma cells and the novel regulation of PTEN expression by AZD6244 in sensitive cells, and suggest new combinatorial approaches for patients.
Project description:Vemurafenib and dabrafenib block MEK-ERK1/2 signaling and cause tumor regression in the majority of advanced-stage BRAF(V600E) melanoma patients; however, acquired resistance and paradoxical signaling have driven efforts for more potent and selective RAF inhibitors. Next-generation RAF inhibitors, such as PLX7904 (PB04), effectively inhibit RAF signaling in BRAF(V600E) melanoma cells without paradoxical effects in wild-type cells. Furthermore, PLX7904 blocks the growth of vemurafenib-resistant BRAF(V600E) cells that express mutant NRAS. Acquired resistance to vemurafenib and dabrafenib is also frequently driven by expression of mutation BRAF splice variants; thus, we tested the effects of PLX7904 and its clinical analog, PLX8394 (PB03), in BRAF(V600E) splice variant-mediated vemurafenib-resistant cells. We show that paradox-breaker RAF inhibitors potently block MEK-ERK1/2 signaling, G1/S cell cycle events, survival and growth of vemurafenib/PLX4720-resistant cells harboring distinct BRAF(V600E) splice variants. These data support the further investigation of paradox-breaker RAF inhibitors as a second-line treatment option for patients failing on vemurafenib or dabrafenib.
Project description:In the search of biguanide-derived molecules against melanoma, we have discovered and developed a series of bioactive products and identified the promising new compound CRO15. This molecule exerted anti-melanoma effects on cells lines and cells isolated from patients including the ones derived from tumors resistant to BRAF inhibitors. Moreover, CRO15 was able to decrease viability of cells lines from a broad range of cancer types. This compound acts by two distinct mechanisms. First by activating the AMPK pathway induced by a mitochondrial disorder. Second by inhibition of MELK kinase activity, which induces cell cycle arrest and activation of DNA damage repair pathways by p53 and REDD1 activation. All of these mechanisms activate autophagic and apoptotic processes resulting in melanoma cell death. The strong efficacy of CRO15 to reduce the growth of melanoma xenograft sensitive or resistant to BRAF inhibitors opens interesting perspective.