Mutant NRASQ61 shares signaling similarities across various cancer types--potential implications for future therapies.
ABSTRACT: Oncogenic mutations in the Neuroblastoma Rat Sarcoma oncogene (NRAS) are frequent in melanoma, but are also found in several other cancer types, such as lung cancer, neuroblastoma and colon cancer. We designed our study to analyze changes in NRAS mutant tumor cells derived from malignancies other than melanoma. A variety of small molecule inhibitors as well as their combinations was tested in order to find beneficial inhibitory modalities in NRASQ61mutant lung cancer and neuroblastoma cell lines. Signaling changes after incubation with inhibitors were studied and compared to those found in NRAS mutant melanoma. All cell lines were most sensitive to inhibition in the MAPK pathway with the MEK inhibitor trametinib. MEK/AKT and MEK/CDK4,6 inhibitor combinations did not show any beneficial effects in vitro. However, we observed strong synergism combining MEK and PI3K/mTOR inhibitors in all cell lines. Our study provides evidence that NRAS mutant cancers share signaling similarities across different malignancies. We demonstrate that dual pathway inhibition of the MAPK and PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway synergistically reduces cell viability in NRAS mutant cancers regardless of their tissue origin. Our results suggest that such inhibitor combinations may be a potential treatment option for non-melanoma tumors harboring activating NRAS mutations.
Project description:Targeted therapy has become a cornerstone for the treatment of melanoma patients. Targeting NRAS function is particularly challenging. To date, only single MEK inhibitor treatment was able to show minimal clinical efficacy. The discovery that co-targeting of MEK and CDK4,6 has antitumor activity created excitement for patients and clinicians; however, it is largely unknown if only NRAS mutant patients might benefit from MEK/CDK4,6 blockade. In this study we investigate response patterns of NRAS, BRAF mutant and 'wild type' melanoma cells in vitro and in vivo when challenged with inhibitors of MEK, CDK4,6 and the combination of both. Data revealed, that in vitro growth response patterns of cells treated with the MEK/CDK4,6 combination correspond to in vivo efficacy of MEK/CDK4,6 co-targeting in melanoma xenograft models. Strikingly, this was consistently observed in NRAS and BRAF mutant, as well as in 'wild type' melanoma cells. Additionally, cells displaying elevated p-Rb levels after single MEK inhibition, showed more effective growth reduction with MEK/CDK4,6 co-targeting compared to single MEK inhibitor treatment in vivo. Findings indicate that combined MEK/CDK4,6 inhibition could offer an effectively therapeutic modality in a subset of BRAF and NRAS mutant, as well as 'wild type' melanoma patients.
Project description:High-risk neuroblastoma remains lethal in about 50% of patients despite multimodal treatment. Recent attempts to identify molecular targets for specific therapies have shown that Neuroblastoma RAS (NRAS) is significantly mutated in a small number of patients. However, few inhibitors for the potential treatment for NRAS mutant neuroblastoma have been investigated so far. In this in-vitro study, we show that MEK inhibitors AZD6244, MEK162 and PD0325901 block cell growth in NRAS mutant neuroblastoma cell lines but not in NRAS wild-type cell lines. Several studies show that mutant NRAS leads to PI3K pathway activation and combined inhibitors of PI3K/mTOR effectively block cell growth. However, we observed the combination of MEK inhibitors with PI3K or AKT inhibitors did not show synergestic effects on cell growth. Thus, we tested single mTOR inhibitors Everolimus and AZD8055. Interestingly, Everolimus and AZD8055 alone were sufficient to block cell growth in NRAS mutant cell lines but not in wild-type cell lines. We found that Everolimus alone induced apoptosis in NRAS mutant neuroblastoma. Furthermore, the combination of mTOR and MEK inhibitors resulted in synergistic growth inhibition. Taken together, our results show that NRAS mutant neuroblastoma can be targeted by clinically available Everolimus alone or in combination with MEK inhibitors which could impact future clinical studies.
Project description:Activating mutations in the neuroblastoma rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (NRAS) gene are common genetic events in malignant melanoma being found in 15-25% of cases. NRAS is thought to activate both mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and PI3K signaling in melanoma cells. We studied the influence of different components on the MAP/extracellular signal-regulated (ERK) kinase (MEK) and PI3K/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-signaling cascade in NRAS mutant melanoma cells. In general, these cells were more sensitive to MEK inhibition compared with inhibition in the PI3K/mTOR cascade. Combined targeting of MEK and PI3K was superior to MEK and mTOR1,2 inhibition in all NRAS mutant melanoma cell lines tested, suggesting that PI3K signaling is more important for cell survival in NRAS mutant melanoma when MEK is inhibited. However, targeting of PI3K/mTOR1,2 in combination with MEK inhibitors is necessary to effectively abolish growth of NRAS mutant melanoma cells in vitro and regress xenografted NRAS mutant melanoma. Furthermore, we showed that MEK and PI3K/mTOR1,2 inhibition is synergistic. Expression analysis confirms that combined MEK and PI3K/mTOR1,2 inhibition predominantly influences genes in the rat sarcoma (RAS) pathway and growth factor receptor pathways, which signal through MEK/ERK and PI3K/mTOR, respectively. Our results suggest that combined targeting of the MEK/ERK and PI3K/mTOR pathways has antitumor activity and might serve as a therapeutic option in the treatment of NRAS mutant melanoma, for which there are currently no effective therapies.
Project description:Activating mutations in neuroblastoma RAS viral oncogene homolog (NRAS) are frequent driver events in cutaneous melanoma. NRAS is a guanosine triphosphate-binding protein whose most well-characterized downstream effector is RAF, leading to activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK)-extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 signaling. Although there are no Food and Drug Administration-approved targeted therapies for melanoma patients with a primary mutation in NRAS, one form of targeted therapy that has been explored is MEK inhibition. In clinical trials, MEK inhibitors have shown disappointing efficacy in mutant NRAS patients, the reasons for which are unclear. To explore the effects of MEK inhibitors in mutant NRAS melanoma, we used a high-throughput reverse-phase protein array platform to identify signaling alterations. Reverse-phase protein array analysis of phospho-proteomic changes in mutant NRAS melanoma in response to trametinib indicated a compensatory increase in v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog signaling and decreased expression of mitogen-inducible gene 6 (MIG6), a negative regulator of epidermal growth factor receptor/v-erb-b2 erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog receptors. MIG6 expression did not alter the growth or survival properties of mutant NRAS melanoma cells. Rather, we identified a role for MIG6 as a negative regulator of epidermal growth factor-induced signaling and cell migration and invasion. In MEK-inhibited cells, further depletion of MIG6 increased migration and invasion, whereas MIG6 expression decreased these properties. Therefore, a decrease in MIG6 may promote the migration and invasiveness of MEK-inhibited mutant NRAS melanoma, especially in response to epidermal growth factor stimulation.
Project description:Cutaneous melanoma is a devastating form of skin cancer and its incidence is increasing faster than any other preventable cancer in the United States. The mutant NRAS subset of melanoma is more aggressive and associated with poorer outcomes compared to non-NRAS mutant melanoma. The aggressive nature and complex molecular signaling conferred by this transformation has evaded clinically effective treatment options. This review examines the major downstream effectors of NRAS relevant in melanoma and the associated advances made in targeted therapies that focus on these effector pathways. We outline the history of MEK inhibition in mutant NRAS melanoma and recent advances with newer MEK inhibitors. Since MEK inhibitors will likely be optimized when combined with other targeted therapies, we focus on recently identified targets that can be used in combination with MEK inhibitors.
Project description:Attempts to directly block the mutant neuroblastoma rat sarcoma oncogene (NRAS) protein, a driving mutation in many cancer types, have been unsuccessful. Current treatments focus on inhibition of different components of NRAS' two main downstream cascades: PI3K/AKT/mTOR and MAPK. Here we test a novel dual therapy combination of metformin and trametinib on a panel of 16 NRAS mutant cell lines, including melanoma cells, melanoma cells with acquired trametinib resistance, lung cancer and neuroblastoma cells. We show that both of the main downstream cascades of NRAS can be blocked by this combination: metformin indirectly inhibits the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway and trametinib directly impedes the MAPK pathway. This dual therapy synergistically reduced cell viability in vitro and xenograft tumor growth in vivo. We conclude that metformin and trametinib combinations are effective in preclinical models and may be a possible option for treatment of NRAS mutant cancers.
Project description:About one-third of cancers harbor activating mutations in rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (RAS) oncogenes. In melanoma, aberrant neuroblastoma-RAS (NRAS) signaling fuels tumor progression in about 20% of patients. Current therapeutics for NRAS-driven malignancies barely affect overall survival. To date, pathway interference downstream of mutant NRAS seems to be the most promising approach. In this study, data revealed that mutant NRAS induced Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1) expression, and pharmacologic inhibition of Plk1 stabilized the size of NRAS mutant melanoma xenografts. The combination of mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK) and Plk1 inhibitors resulted in a significant growth reduction of NRAS mutant melanoma cells in vitro, and regression of xenografted NRAS mutant melanoma in vivo. Independent cell cycle arrest and increased induction of apoptosis underlies the synergistic effect of this combination. Data further suggest that the p53 signaling pathway is of key importance to the observed therapeutic efficacy. This study provides in vitro, in vivo, and first mechanistic data that an MEK/Plk1 inhibitor combination might be a promising treatment approach for patients with NRAS-driven melanoma. As mutant NRAS signaling is similar across different malignancies, this inhibitor combination could also offer a previously unreported treatment modality for NRAS mutant tumors of other cell origins.
Project description:Activating mutations of the NRAS (neuroblastoma rat sarcoma viral oncogene) protein kinase, present in many cancers, induce a constitutive activation of both the RAS-RAF-MEK-ERK mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction pathway and the PI(3)K-AKT-mTOR, pathway. This in turn regulates the formation of the eIF4F eukaryotic translation initiation complex, comprising the eIF4E cap-binding protein, the eIF4G scaffolding protein and the eIF4A RNA helicase, which binds to the 7-methylguanylate cap (m(7)G) at the 5' end of messenger RNAs. Small molecules targeting MEK (MEKi: MEK inhibitors) have demonstrated activity in NRAS-mutant cell lines and tumors, but resistance sets in most cases within months of treatment. Using proximity ligation assays, that allows visualization of the binding of eIF4E to the scaffold protein eIF4G, generating the active eIF4F complex, we have found that resistance to MEKi is associated with the persistent formation of the eIF4F complex in MEKi-treated NRAS-mutant cell lines. Furthermore, inhibiting the eIF4A component of the eIF4F complex, with a small molecule of the flavagline/rocaglate family, synergizes with inhibiting MEK to kill NRAS-mutant cancer cell lines.
Project description:FDA-approved kinase inhibitors are now used for melanoma, including combinations of the MEK inhibitor trametinib, and BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib for BRAFV600 mutations. NRAS-mutated cell lines are also sensitive to MEK inhibition <i>in vitro</i>, and NRAS-mutated tumors have also shown partial response to MEK inhibitors. However, melanoma still has high recurrence rates due to subpopulations, sometimes described as "melanoma initiating cells," resistant to treatment. Since CD133 is a putative cancer stem cell marker for different cancers, associated with decreased survival, we examined resistance of patient-derived CD133(+) and CD133(-) melanoma cells to MAPK inhibitors. Human melanoma cells were exposed to increasing concentrations of trametinib and/or dabrafenib, either before or after separation into CD133(+) and CD133(-) subpopulations. In parental CD133-mixed lines, the percentages of CD133(+) cells increased significantly (p<0.05) after high-dose drug treatment. Presorted CD133(+) cells also exhibited significantly greater (p<0.05) IC50s for single and combination MAPKI treatment. siRNA knockdown revealed a causal relationship between CD133 and drug resistance. Microarray and qRT-PCR analyses revealed that ten of 18 ABC transporter genes were significantly (P<0.05) upregulated in the CD133(+) subpopulation, while inhibition of ABC activity increased sensitivity, suggesting a mechanism for increased drug resistance of CD133(+) cells.
Project description:The discovery of potent inhibitors of the BRAF proto-oncogene has revolutionized therapy for melanoma harboring mutations in BRAF, yet NRAS-mutant melanoma remains without an effective therapy. Because direct pharmacological inhibition of the RAS proto-oncogene has thus far been unsuccessful, we explored systems biology approaches to identify synergistic drug combination(s) that can mimic RAS inhibition. Here, leveraging an inducible mouse model of NRAS-mutant melanoma, we show that pharmacological inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) activates apoptosis but not cell-cycle arrest, which is in contrast to complete genetic neuroblastoma RAS homolog (NRAS) extinction, which triggers both of these effects. Network modeling pinpointed cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) as a key driver of this differential phenotype. Accordingly, combined pharmacological inhibition of MEK and CDK4 in vivo led to substantial synergy in therapeutic efficacy. We suggest a gradient model of oncogenic NRAS signaling in which the output is gated, resulting in the decoupling of discrete downstream biological phenotypes as a result of incomplete inhibition. Such a gated signaling model offers a new framework to identify nonobvious coextinction target(s) for combined pharmacological inhibition in NRAS-mutant melanomas.