A genome-scale RNA interference screen implicates NF1 loss in resistance to RAF inhibition.
ABSTRACT: RAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib and dabrafenib block BRAF-mediated cell proliferation and achieve meaningful clinical benefit in the vast majority of patients with BRAF(V600E)-mutant melanoma. However, some patients do not respond to this regimen, and nearly all progress to therapeutic resistance. We used a pooled RNA interference screen targeting more than 16,500 genes to discover loss-of-function events that could drive resistance to RAF inhibition. The highest ranking gene was NF1, which encodes neurofibromin, a tumor suppressor that inhibits RAS activity. NF1 loss mediates resistance to RAF and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitors through sustained MAPK pathway activation. However, cells lacking NF1 retained sensitivity to the irreversible RAF inhibitor AZ628 and an ERK inhibitor. NF1 mutations were observed in BRAF-mutant tumor cells that are intrinsically resistant to RAF inhibition and in melanoma tumors obtained from patients exhibiting resistance to vemurafenib, thus showing the clinical potential for NF1-driven resistance to RAF/MEK-targeted therapies.
Project description:Melanoma is a disease characterized by lesions that activate ERK. Although 70% of cutaneous melanomas harbor activating mutations in the BRAF and NRAS genes, the alterations that drive tumor progression in the remaining 30% are largely undefined. Vemurafenib, a selective inhibitor of RAF kinases, has clinical utility restricted to BRAF-mutant tumors. MEK inhibitors, which have shown clinical activity in NRAS-mutant melanoma, may be effective in other ERK pathway-dependent settings. Here, we investigated a panel of melanoma cell lines wild type for BRAF and NRAS to determine the genetic alteration driving their transformation and their dependence on ERK signaling in order to elucidate a candidate set for MEK inhibitor treatment. A cohort of the BRAF/RAS wild type cell lines with high levels of RAS-GTP had loss of NF1, a RAS GTPase activating protein. In these cell lines, the MEK inhibitor PD0325901 inhibited ERK phosphorylation, but also relieved feedback inhibition of RAS, resulting in induction of pMEK and a rapid rebound in ERK signaling. In contrast, the MEK inhibitor trametinib impaired the adaptive response of cells to ERK inhibition, leading to sustained suppression of ERK signaling and significant antitumor effects. Notably, alterations in NF1 frequently co-occurred with RAS and BRAF alterations in melanoma. In the setting of BRAF(V600E), NF1 loss abrogated negative feedback on RAS activation, resulting in elevated activation of RAS-GTP and resistance to RAF, but not MEK, inhibitors. We conclude that loss of NF1 is common in cutaneous melanoma and is associated with RAS activation, MEK-dependence, and resistance to RAF inhibition.
Project description:RAF and MEK inhibitors are effective in BRAF-mutant melanoma but not in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer. To gain additional insights into this difference, we performed a genome-scale pooled shRNA enhancer screen in a BRAF-mutant, RAF inhibitor-resistant colorectal cancer cell line exposed to the selective RAF inhibitor PLX4720. We identified multiple genes along the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling axis that, when suppressed, either genetically or pharmacologically, sensitized cells to the selective RAF inhibitor through sustained inhibition of MAPK signaling. Strikingly, CRAF was a key mediator of resistance that could be overcome by the use of pan-RAF inhibitors in combination with a MEK inhibitor. Furthermore, the combination of pan-RAF and MEK inhibitors displayed strong synergy in melanoma and colorectal cancer cell lines with RAS-activating events such as RTK activation, KRAS mutation, or NF1 loss-of-function mutations. Combinations of selective RAF inhibitors, such as PLX4720 or dabrafenib, with MEK inhibitors did not incur such profound synergy, suggesting that inhibition of CRAF by pan-RAF inhibitors plays a key role in determining cellular response. Importantly, in contrast to the modest activity seen with single-agent treatment, dual pan-RAF and MEK inhibition results in the induction of apoptosis, greatly enhancing efficacy. Notably, combined pan-RAF and MEK inhibition can overcome intrinsic and acquired resistance to single-agent RAF/MEK inhibition, supporting dual pan-RAF and MEK inhibition as a novel therapeutic strategy for BRAF- and KRAS-mutant cancers.
Project description:Mutations in the serine/threonine kinase BRAF are found in more than 60% of melanomas. The most prevalent melanoma mutation is BRAF(V600E), which constitutively activates downstream MAPK signalling. Vemurafenib is a potent RAF kinase inhibitor with remarkable clinical activity in BRAF(V600E)-positive melanoma tumours. However, patients rapidly develop resistance to vemurafenib treatment. One resistance mechanism is the emergence of BRAF alternative splicing isoforms leading to elimination of the RAS-binding domain. Here we identify interference with pre-mRNA splicing as a mechanism to combat vemurafenib resistance. We find that small-molecule pre-mRNA splicing modulators reduce BRAF3-9 production and limit in-vitro cell growth of vemurafenib-resistant cells. In xenograft models, interference with pre-mRNA splicing prevents tumour formation and slows growth of vemurafenib-resistant tumours. Our results identify an intronic mutation as the molecular basis for a RNA splicing-mediated RAF inhibitor resistance mechanism and we identify pre-mRNA splicing interference as a potential therapeutic strategy for drug resistance in BRAF melanoma.
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:Oncogenic B-RAF V600E mutation is found in 50% of melanomas and drives MEK/ERK pathway and cancer progression. Recently, a selective B-RAF inhibitor, vemurafenib (PLX4032), received clinical approval for treatment of melanoma with B-RAF V600E mutation. However, patients on vemurafenib eventually develop resistance to the drug and demonstrate tumor progression within an average of 7 months. Recent reports indicated that multiple complex and context-dependent mechanisms may confer resistance to B-RAF inhibition. In the study described herein, we generated B-RAF V600E melanoma cell lines of acquired-resistance to vemurafenib, and investigated the underlying mechanism(s) of resistance. Biochemical analysis revealed that MEK/ERK reactivation through Ras is the key resistance mechanism in these cells. Further analysis of total gene expression by microarray confirmed a significant increase of Ras and RTK gene signatures in the vemurafenib-resistant cells. Mechanistically, we found that the enhanced activation of fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) is linked to Ras and MAPK activation, therefore conferring vemurafenib resistance. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of the FGFR3/Ras axis restored the sensitivity of vemurafenib-resistant cells to vemurafenib. Additionally, activation of FGFR3 sufficiently reactivated Ras/MAPK signaling and conferred resistance to vemurafenib in the parental B-RAF V600E melanoma cells. Finally, we demonstrated that vemurafenib-resistant cells maintain their addiction to the MAPK pathway, and inhibition of MEK or pan-RAF activities is an effective therapeutic strategy to overcome acquired-resistance to vemurafenib. Together, we describe a novel FGFR3/Ras mediated mechanism for acquired-resistance to B-RAF inhibition. Our results have implications for the development of new therapeutic strategies to improve the outcome of patients with B-RAF V600E melanoma.
Project description:The sustained clinical activity of the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (PLX4032/RG7204) in patients with BRAF(V600) mutant melanoma is limited primarily by the development of acquired resistance leading to tumor progression. Clinical trials are in progress using MEK inhibitors following disease progression in patients receiving BRAF inhibitors. However, the PI3K/AKT pathway can also induce resistance to the inhibitors of MAPK pathway.The sensitivity to vemurafenib or the MEK inhibitor AZD6244 was tested in sensitive and resistant human melanoma cell lines exploring differences in activation-associated phosphorylation levels of major signaling molecules, leading to the testing of co-inhibition of the AKT/mTOR pathway genetically and pharmacologically. There was a high degree of cross-resistance to vemurafenib and AZD6244, except in two vemurafenib-resistant cell lines that acquired a secondary mutation in NRAS. In other cell lines, acquired resistance to both drugs was associated with persistence or increase in activity of AKT pathway. siRNA-mediated gene silencing and combination therapy with an AKT inhibitor or rapamycin partially or completely reversed the resistance.Primary and acquired resistance to vemurafenib in these in vitro models results in frequent cross resistance to MEK inhibitors, except when the resistance is the result of a secondary NRAS mutation. Resistance to BRAF or MEK inhibitors is associated with the induction or persistence of activity within the AKT pathway in the presence of these drugs. This resistance can be potentially reversed by the combination of a RAF or MEK inhibitor with an AKT or mTOR inhibitor. These combinations should be available for clinical testing in patients progressing on BRAF inhibitors.
Project description:Resistance to RAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib and dabrafenib is a major clinical problem in the treatment of melanoma. Patients with mutant BRAF melanoma that progress on RAF inhibitors have limited treatment options, and drug removal from resistant tumors may elicit multiple effects. A frequent mechanism of resistance to RAF inhibitors is caused by expression of mutant BRAF splice variants. RAF inhibitor-resistant cell lines, generated in vivo, were tested as to whether or not mutant BRAF splice variants confer a fitness advantage in the presence of RAF inhibitor. Critically, cells expressing distinct mutant BRAF splice variants grow more efficiently in vitro and in vivo in the presence of the vemurafenib analog, PLX4720, compared with in the absence of inhibitor. PLX4720-treated BRAF splice variant-expressing cells exhibited levels of phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 comparable to untreated parental cells. In addition, a reduction in phospho-ERK1/2 levels following treatment with the MEK inhibitor, trametinib (GSK1120212) phenocopied the fitness benefit provided by PLX4720. These data indicate that mutant BRAF splice variant-expressing melanoma cells are benefited by defined concentrations of RAF inhibitors.This study provides evidence that RAF inhibitor-resistant melanoma cells benefit from continued therapy.
Project description:Most patients with BRAF(V600)-mutant metastatic melanoma develop resistance to selective RAF kinase inhibitors. The spectrum of clinical genetic resistance mechanisms to RAF inhibitors and options for salvage therapy are incompletely understood. We performed whole-exome sequencing on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumors from 45 patients with BRAF(V600)-mutant metastatic melanoma who received vemurafenib or dabrafenib monotherapy. Genetic alterations in known or putative RAF inhibitor resistance genes were observed in 23 of 45 patients (51%). Besides previously characterized alterations, we discovered a "long tail" of new mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway alterations (MAP2K2, MITF) that confer RAF inhibitor resistance. In three cases, multiple resistance gene alterations were observed within the same tumor biopsy. Overall, RAF inhibitor therapy leads to diverse clinical genetic resistance mechanisms, mostly involving MAPK pathway reactivation. Novel therapeutic combinations may be needed to achieve durable clinical control of BRAF(V600)-mutant melanoma. Integrating clinical genomics with preclinical screens may model subsequent resistance studies.
Project description:Malignant melanomas harbouring point mutations (Val600Glu) in the serine/threonine-protein kinase BRAF (BRAF(V600E)) depend on RAF-MEK-ERK signalling for tumour cell growth. RAF and MEK inhibitors show remarkable clinical efficacy in BRAF(V600E) melanoma; however, resistance to these agents remains a formidable challenge. Global characterization of resistance mechanisms may inform the development of more effective therapeutic combinations. Here we carried out systematic gain-of-function resistance studies by expressing more than 15,500 genes individually in a BRAF(V600E) melanoma cell line treated with RAF, MEK, ERK or combined RAF-MEK inhibitors. These studies revealed a cyclic-AMP-dependent melanocytic signalling network not previously associated with drug resistance, including G-protein-coupled receptors, adenyl cyclase, protein kinase A and cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). Preliminary analysis of biopsies from BRAF(V600E) melanoma patients revealed that phosphorylated (active) CREB was suppressed by RAF-MEK inhibition but restored in relapsing tumours. Expression of transcription factors activated downstream of MAP kinase and cAMP pathways also conferred resistance, including c-FOS, NR4A1, NR4A2 and MITF. Combined treatment with MAPK-pathway and histone-deacetylase inhibitors suppressed MITF expression and cAMP-mediated resistance. Collectively, these data suggest that oncogenic dysregulation of a melanocyte lineage dependency can cause resistance to RAF-MEK-ERK inhibition, which may be overcome by combining signalling- and chromatin-directed therapeutics.
Project description:Activating BRAF kinase mutations arise in approximately 7% of all human tumors, and preclinical studies have validated the RAF-mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase-ERK signaling cascade as a potentially important therapeutic target in this setting. Selective RAF kinase inhibitors are currently undergoing clinical development, and based on the experience with other kinase-targeted therapeutics, it is expected that clinical responses to these agents, if observed, will lead to the eventual emergence of drug resistance in most cases. Thus, it is important to establish molecular mechanisms underlying such resistance to develop effective therapeutic strategies to overcome or prevent drug resistance. To anticipate potential mechanisms of acquired resistance to RAF inhibitors during the course of treatment, we established drug-resistant clones from a human melanoma-derived cell line harboring the recurrent V600E activating BRAF mutation, which exhibits exquisite sensitivity to AZ628, a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We determined that elevated CRAF protein levels account for the acquisition of resistance to AZ628 in these cells, associated with a switch from BRAF to CRAF dependency in tumor cells. We also found that elevated CRAF protein levels may similarly contribute to primary insensitivity to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumor cells. Interestingly, AZ628-resistant cells demonstrating either primary drug insensitivity or acquired drug resistance exhibit exquisite sensitivity to the HSP90 inhibitor geldanamycin. Geldanamycin effectively promotes the degradation of CRAF, thereby revealing a potential therapeutic strategy to overcome resistance to RAF inhibition in a subset of BRAF mutant tumors.