Whole-genome sequencing reveals complex mechanisms of intrinsic resistance to BRAF inhibition.
ABSTRACT: BRAF is mutated in ?42% of human melanomas (COSMIC. http://www.sanger.ac.uk/genetics/CGP/cosmic/) and pharmacological BRAF inhibitors such as vemurafenib and dabrafenib achieve dramatic responses in patients whose tumours harbour BRAF(V600) mutations. Objective responses occur in ?50% of patients and disease stabilisation in a further ?30%, but ?20% of patients present primary or innate resistance and do not respond. Here, we investigated the underlying cause of treatment failure in a patient with BRAF mutant melanoma who presented primary resistance.We carried out whole-genome sequencing and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array analysis of five metastatic tumours from the patient. We validated mechanisms of resistance in a cell line derived from the patient's tumour.We observed that the majority of the single-nucleotide variants identified were shared across all tumour sites, but also saw site-specific copy-number alterations in discrete cell populations at different sites. We found that two ubiquitous mutations mediated resistance to BRAF inhibition in these tumours. A mutation in GNAQ sustained mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling, whereas a mutation in PTEN activated the PI3 K/AKT pathway. Inhibition of both pathways synergised to block the growth of the cells.Our analyses show that the five metastases arose from a common progenitor and acquired additional alterations after disease dissemination. We demonstrate that a distinct combination of mutations mediated primary resistance to BRAF inhibition in this patient. These mutations were present in all five tumours and in a tumour sample taken before BRAF inhibitor treatment was administered. Inhibition of both pathways was required to block tumour cell growth, suggesting that combined targeting of these pathways could have been a valid therapeutic approach for this patient.
Project description:The initiating oncogenic event in almost half of human lung adenocarcinomas is still unknown, a fact that complicates the development of selective targeted therapies. Yet these tumours harbour a number of alterations without obvious oncogenic function including BRAF-inactivating mutations. Inactivating BRAF mutants in lung predominate over the activating V600E mutant that is frequently observed in other tumour types. Here we demonstrate that the expression of an endogenous Braf(D631A) kinase-inactive isoform in mice (corresponding to the human BRAF(D594A) mutation) triggers lung adenocarcinoma in vivo, indicating that BRAF-inactivating mutations are initiating events in lung oncogenesis. Moreover, inactivating BRAF mutations have also been identified in a subset of KRAS-driven human lung tumours. Co-expression of Kras(G12V) and Braf(D631A) in mouse lung cells markedly enhances tumour initiation, a phenomenon mediated by Craf kinase activity, and effectively accelerates tumour progression when activated in advanced lung adenocarcinomas. We also report a key role for the wild-type Braf kinase in sustaining Kras(G12V)/Braf(D631A)-driven tumours. Ablation of the wild-type Braf allele prevents the development of lung adenocarcinoma by inducing a further increase in MAPK signalling that results in oncogenic toxicity; this effect can be abolished by pharmacological inhibition of Mek to restore tumour growth. However, the loss of wild-type Braf also induces transdifferentiation of club cells, which leads to the rapid development of lethal intrabronchiolar lesions. These observations indicate that the signal intensity of the MAPK pathway is a critical determinant not only in tumour development, but also in dictating the nature of the cancer-initiating cell and ultimately the resulting tumour phenotype.
Project description:The analysis of plasma circulating tumour nucleic acids provides a non-invasive approach to assess disease burden and the genetic evolution of tumours in response to therapy. BRAF splicing variants are known to confer melanoma resistance to BRAF inhibitors. We developed a test to screen cell-free RNA (cfRNA) for the presence of BRAF splicing variants. Custom droplet digital PCR assays were designed for the detection of BRAF splicing variants p61, p55, p48 and p41 and then validated using RNA from cell lines carrying these variants. Evaluation of plasma from patients with reported objective response to BRAF/MEK inhibition followed by disease progression was revealed by increased circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in 24 of 38 cases at the time of relapse. Circulating BRAF splicing variants were detected in cfRNA from 3 of these 38 patients; two patients carried the BRAF p61 variant and one the p55 variant. In all three cases the presence of the splicing variant was apparent only at the time of progressive disease. BRAF p61 was also detectable in plasma of one of four patients with confirmed BRAF splicing variants in their progressing tumours. Isolation and analysis of RNA from extracellular vesicles (EV) from resistant cell lines and patient plasma demonstrated that BRAF splicing variants are associated with EVs. These findings indicate that in addition to plasma ctDNA, RNA carried by EVs can provide important tumour specific information.
Project description:The kinase pathway comprising RAS, RAF, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) and extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) is activated in most human tumours, often through gain-of-function mutations of RAS and RAF family members. Using small-molecule inhibitors of MEK and an integrated genetic and pharmacologic analysis, we find that mutation of BRAF is associated with enhanced and selective sensitivity to MEK inhibition when compared to either 'wild-type' cells or cells harbouring a RAS mutation. This MEK dependency was observed in BRAF mutant cells regardless of tissue lineage, and correlated with both downregulation of cyclin D1 protein expression and the induction of G1 arrest. Pharmacological MEK inhibition completely abrogated tumour growth in BRAF mutant xenografts, whereas RAS mutant tumours were only partially inhibited. These data suggest an exquisite dependency on MEK activity in BRAF mutant tumours, and offer a rational therapeutic strategy for this genetically defined tumour subtype.
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: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:Anti-EGFR antibodies are effective in therapies for late-stage colorectal cancer (CRC); however, many tumours are unresponsive or develop resistance. We performed genomic analysis of intrinsic and acquired resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in prospectively collected tumour samples from 25 CRC patients receiving cetuximab (an EGFR inhibitor). Of 25 CRC patients, 13 displayed intrinsic resistance to cetuximab; 12 were intrinsically sensitive. We obtained six re-biopsy samples at acquired resistance from the intrinsically sensitive patients. NCOA4-RET and LMNA-NTRK1 fusions and NRG1 and GNAS amplifications were found in intrinsic-resistant patients. In cetuximab-sensitive patients, we found KRAS K117N and A146T mutations in addition to BRAF V600E, AKT1 E17K, PIK3CA E542K, and FGFR1 or ERBB2 amplifications. The comparison between baseline and acquired-resistant tumours revealed an extreme shift in variant allele frequency of somatic variants, suggesting that cetuximab exposure dramatically selected for rare resistant subclones that were initially undetectable. There was also an increase in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition at acquired resistance, with a reduction in the immune infiltrate. Furthermore, characterization of an acquired-resistant, patient-derived cell line showed that PI3K/mTOR inhibition could rescue cetuximab resistance. Thus, we uncovered novel genomic alterations that elucidate the mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in metastatic CRC patients.
Project description:Resistance to BRAF inhibition is a major cause of treatment failure for BRAF-mutated metastatic melanoma patients. Abemaciclib, a cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and 6 inhibitor, overcomes this resistance in xenograft tumours and offers a promising drug combination. The present work aims to characterise the quantitative pharmacology of the abemaciclib/vemurafenib combination using a semimechanistic pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modelling approach and to identify an optimum dosing regimen for potential clinical evaluation.A PK/biomarker model was developed to connect abemaciclib/vemurafenib concentrations to changes in MAPK and cell cycle pathway biomarkers in A375 BRAF-mutated melanoma xenografts. Resultant tumour growth inhibition was described by relating (i) MAPK pathway inhibition to apoptosis, (ii) mitotic cell density to tumour growth and, under resistant conditions, (iii) retinoblastoma protein inhibition to cell survival.The model successfully described vemurafenib/abemaciclib-mediated changes in MAPK pathway and cell cycle biomarkers. Initial tumour shrinkage by vemurafenib, acquisition of resistance and subsequent abemaciclib-mediated efficacy were successfully captured and externally validated. Model simulations illustrate the benefit of intermittent vemurafenib therapy over continuous treatment, and indicate that continuous abemaciclib in combination with intermittent vemurafenib offers the potential for considerable tumour regression.The quantitative pharmacology of the abemaciclib/vemurafenib combination was successfully characterised and an optimised, clinically-relevant dosing strategy was identified.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:Carcinogen-induced mouse models of liver cancer are used extensively to study the pathogenesis of the disease and are critical for validating candidate therapeutics. These models can recapitulate molecular and histological features of human disease. However, it is not known if the genomic alterations driving these mouse tumour genomes are comparable to those found in human tumours. Herein, we provide a detailed genomic characterisation of tumours from a commonly used mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). METHODS:We analysed whole exome sequences of liver tumours arising in mice exposed to diethylnitrosamine (DEN). Mutational signatures were compared between liver tumours from DEN-treated and untreated mice, and human HCCs. RESULTS:DEN-initiated tumours had a high, uniform number of somatic single nucleotide variants (SNVs), with few insertions, deletions or copy number alterations, consistent with the known genotoxic action of DEN. Exposure of hepatocytes to DEN left a reproducible mutational imprint in resulting tumour exomes which we could computationally reconstruct using six known COSMIC mutational signatures. The tumours carried a high diversity of low-incidence, non-synonymous point mutations in many oncogenes and tumour suppressors, reflecting the stochastic introduction of SNVs into the hepatocyte genome by the carcinogen. We identified four recurrently mutated genes that were putative oncogenic drivers of HCC in this model. Every neoplasm carried activating hotspot mutations either in codon 61 of Hras, in codon 584 of Braf or in codon 254 of Egfr. Truncating mutations of Apc occurred in 21% of neoplasms, which were exclusively carcinomas supporting a role for deregulation of Wnt/?-catenin signalling in cancer progression. CONCLUSIONS:Our study provides detailed insight into the mutational landscape of tumours arising in a commonly used carcinogen model of HCC, facilitating the future use of this model to better understand the human disease. LAY SUMMARY:Mouse models are widely used to study the biology of cancer and to test potential therapies. Herein, we have described the mutational landscape of tumours arising in a carcinogen-induced mouse model of liver cancer. Since cancer is a disease caused by genomic alterations, information about the patterns and types of mutations in the tumours in this mouse model should facilitate its use to study human liver cancer.
Project description:This study investigated the potential clinical utility of circulating free DNA (cfDNA) as a source of BRAF mutation detection in patients enrolled into a phase II study of AZD6244, a specific MEK1/2 inhibitor, in patients with advanced melanoma.BRAF mutations were detected using Amplification Refractory Mutation System allele-specific PCR. BRAF mutation status was assessed in serum-derived cfDNA from 126 patients enrolled into the study and from 94 matched tumour samples.Of 94 tumour samples, 45 (47.9%) were found to be BRAF mutation positive (BRAF+). Serum-derived cfDNA was BRAF+ in 33 of 126 (26.2%) samples, including in five samples for which tumour data were unavailable. Of BRAF+ tumours, 25 of 45 (55.6%) were BRAF+ in cfDNA. In three cases in which the tumour was negative, cfDNA was BRAF+. Progression-free survival (PFS) of patients with BRAF+ tumour and cfDNA was not significantly different compared with tumour BRAF+ but cfDNA BRAF-negative patients, indicating that cfDNA BRAF detection is not associated with poorer prognosis on PFS in stage III/IV advanced melanoma.These data demonstrate the feasibility of BRAF mutation detection in cfDNA of patients with advanced melanoma. Future studies should aim to incorporate BRAF mutation testing in cfDNA to further validate this biomarker for patient selection.
Project description:Activating B-RAF(V600E) (also known as BRAF) kinase mutations occur in ?7% of human malignancies and ?60% of melanomas. Early clinical experience with a novel class I RAF-selective inhibitor, PLX4032, demonstrated an unprecedented 80% anti-tumour response rate among patients with B-RAF(V600E)-positive melanomas, but acquired drug resistance frequently develops after initial responses. Hypotheses for mechanisms of acquired resistance to B-RAF inhibition include secondary mutations in B-RAF(V600E), MAPK reactivation, and activation of alternative survival pathways. Here we show that acquired resistance to PLX4032 develops by mutually exclusive PDGFR? (also known as PDGFRB) upregulation or N-RAS (also known as NRAS) mutations but not through secondary mutations in B-RAF(V600E). We used PLX4032-resistant sub-lines artificially derived from B-RAF(V600E)-positive melanoma cell lines and validated key findings in PLX4032-resistant tumours and tumour-matched, short-term cultures from clinical trial patients. Induction of PDGFR? RNA, protein and tyrosine phosphorylation emerged as a dominant feature of acquired PLX4032 resistance in a subset of melanoma sub-lines, patient-derived biopsies and short-term cultures. PDGFR?-upregulated tumour cells have low activated RAS levels and, when treated with PLX4032, do not reactivate the MAPK pathway significantly. In another subset, high levels of activated N-RAS resulting from mutations lead to significant MAPK pathway reactivation upon PLX4032 treatment. Knockdown of PDGFR? or N-RAS reduced growth of the respective PLX4032-resistant subsets. Overexpression of PDGFR? or N-RAS(Q61K) conferred PLX4032 resistance to PLX4032-sensitive parental cell lines. Importantly, MAPK reactivation predicts MEK inhibitor sensitivity. Thus, melanomas escape B-RAF(V600E) targeting not through secondary B-RAF(V600E) mutations but via receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)-mediated activation of alternative survival pathway(s) or activated RAS-mediated reactivation of the MAPK pathway, suggesting additional therapeutic strategies.