Vertical inhibition of the MAPK pathway enhances therapeutic responses in NRAS-mutant melanoma.
ABSTRACT: The MEK inhibitor MEK162 is the first targeted therapy agent with clinical activity in patients whose melanomas harbor NRAS mutations; however, median PFS is 3.7 months, suggesting the rapid onset of resistance in the majority of patients. Here, we show that treatment of NRAS-mutant melanoma cell lines with the MEK inhibitors AZD6244 or trametinib resulted in a rebound activation of phospho-ERK (pERK). Functionally, the recovery of signaling was associated with the maintenance of cyclin-D1 expression and therapeutic escape. The combination of a MEK inhibitor with an ERK inhibitor suppressed the recovery of cyclin-D1 expression and was associated with a significant enhancement of apoptosis and the abrogation of clonal outgrowth. The MEK/ERK combination strategy induced greater levels of apoptosis compared with dual MEK/CDK4 or MEK/PI3K inhibition across a panel of cell lines. These data provide the rationale for further investigation of vertically co-targeting the MAPK pathway as a potential treatment option for NRAS-mutant melanoma patients.
Project description:Conjunctival melanoma (CM) is a rare but lethal form of cancer. Similar to cutaneous melanoma, CM frequently carries activating mutations in BRAF and NRAS. We studied whether CM as well as conjunctival benign and premalignant melanocytic lesions express targets in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and AKT pathways, and whether specific inhibitors can suppress CM growth in vitro.131 conjunctival lesions obtained from 129 patients were collected. The presence of BRAF V600E mutation and expression of phosphorylated (p)-ERK and p-AKT were assessed by immunohistochemistry. We studied cell proliferation, phosphorylation, cell cycling and apoptosis in three CM cell lines using two BRAF inhibitors (Vemurafenib and Dabrafenib), a MEK inhibitor (MEK162) and an AKT inhibitor (MK2206).The BRAF V600E mutation was present in 19% of nevi and 26% of melanomas, but not in primary acquired melanosis (PAM). Nuclear and cytoplasmic p-ERK and p-AKT were expressed in all conjunctival lesions. Both BRAF inhibitors suppressed growth of both BRAF mutant CM cell lines, but only one induced cell death. MEK162 and MK2206 inhibited proliferation of CM cells in a dose-dependent manner, and the combination of these two drugs led to synergistic growth inhibition and cell death in all CM cell lines.ERK and AKT are constitutively activated in conjunctival nevi, PAM and melanoma. While BRAF inhibitors prohibited cell growth, they were not always cytotoxic. Combining MEK and AKT inhibitors led to more growth inhibition and cell death in CM cells. The combination may benefit patients suffering from metastatic conjunctival melanoma.
Project description:phase II and III clinical trials demonstrated modest anti- tumor activity of Binimetinib (MEK162) - a potent allosteric inhibitor of MEK1 and MEK2- in patients with advanced NRAS mutant melanoma. The analysis of the NEMO study in NRAS mutated melanoma, has shown that pre-treatment with immunotherapy improved the outcome of binimetinib therapy. We discuss this finding in the context of in vitro and in vivo effects of MEK inhibition on immuno-critical pathways and interactions.
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: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: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:Although melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer, recent advances in BRAF and/or MEK inhibitors against BRAF-mutated melanoma have improved survival rates. Despite these advances, a treatment strategy targeting NRAS-mutated melanoma has not yet been elucidated. We discovered CH5126766/RO5126766 as a potent and selective dual RAF/MEK inhibitor currently under early clinical trials. We examined the activity of CH5126766/RO5126766 in a panel of malignant tumor cell lines including melanoma with a BRAF or NRAS mutation. Eight cell lines including melanoma were assessed for their sensitivity to the BRAF, MEK, or RAF/MEK inhibitor using in vitro growth assays. CH5126766/RO5126766 induced G1 cell cycle arrest in two melanoma cell lines with the BRAF V600E or NRAS mutation. In these cells, the G1 cell cycle arrest was accompanied by up-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27 and down-regulation of cyclinD1. CH5126766/RO5126766 was more effective at reducing colony formation than a MEK inhibitor in NRAS- or KRAS-mutated cells. In the RAS-mutated cells, CH5126766/RO5126766 suppressed the MEK reactivation caused by a MEK inhibitor. In addition, CH5126766/RO5126766 suppressed the tumor growth in SK-MEL-2 xenograft model. The present study indicates that CH5126766/RO5126766 is an attractive RAF/MEK inhibitor in RAS-mutated malignant tumor cells including melanoma.
Project description:Treatments for recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have limited efficacy. One potential therapeutic target for HNSCC is the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK cascade, which is one of the major signaling pathways for HNSCC cell survival. In HNSCC, RAS can be activated either by HRAS mutation or by upstream signaling. The ABL inhibitor nilotinib acts as a weak RAF inhibitor that induces RAF dimerization and subsequent activation of MEK/ERK in other cancer cell lines with activated RAS, leading to an unexpected dependence on MEK/ERK for cell survival. We hypothesized that nilotinib and the MEK inhibitor MEK162 would be synergistic in HNSCC cell lines owing to the frequent activation of RAS. We treated HNSCC cell lines with nilotinib and performed immunoblotting and cell-viability experiments. We used an orthotopic mouse model to assess synergistic effects in vivo. Nilotinib induced significant BRAF-CRAF heterodimerization and ERK activation irrespective of RAS mutation status. In cell-viability assays, nilotinib synergized with MEK162. MEK162 alone induced G1 arrest that was minimally enhanced by nilotinib. In the mouse model, treatment with MEK162 alone or combined with nilotinib led to tumor growth inhibition. In HNSCC, nilotinib-induced RAF dimerization is independent of RAS mutation status, but this dimerization does not lead to MEK dependence for cell survival in all HNSCC cell lines. MEK inhibition alone leads to decreased proliferation both in vitro and in vivo. Although nilotinib has some synergistic effects with MEK162, other agents may be more effective against HNSCC when combined with MEK162.
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:Constitutive activation of MEK-ERK signaling is often found in melanomas. Here, we identify a mechanism that links ERK with JNK signaling in human melanoma. Constitutively active ERK increases c-Jun transcription and stability, which are mediated by CREB and GSK3, respectively. Subsequently, c-Jun increases transcription of target genes, including RACK1, an adaptor protein that enables PKC to phosphorylate and enhance JNK activity, enforcing a feed-forward mechanism of the JNK-Jun pathway. Activated c-Jun is also responsible for elevated cyclin D1 expression, which is frequently overexpressed in human melanoma. Our data reveal that, in human melanoma, the rewired ERK signaling pathway upregulates JNK and activates the c-Jun oncogene and its downstream targets, including RACK1 and cyclin D1.
Project description:Gain of function mutations in B-RAF and N-RAS occur frequently in melanoma, leading to mitogen activating protein kinase (MAPK) pathway activation, and this pathway is the target of drugs in development. Our purpose was to study clinical characteristics of patients with mutations in this pathway and to determine activity of inhibitors of B-RAF and MEK in short term cultures grown from tumors of some of these patients.Clinical and pathologic data were collected retrospectively on melanoma patients tested for B-RAF and N-RAS mutations at the Yale Cancer Center and associations with survival were determined. We studied in vitro activity of the pan-RAF inhibitor, RAF265, and the MEK inhibitor, MEK162, in 22 melanoma short term cultures. We further characterized the effect of MEK inhibition on apoptosis and growth of melanoma cultures.In a cohort of 144 metastatic melanoma patients we found that patients with N-RAS mutant melanoma had a worse prognosis. These patients were more likely to have brain metastases at the time of presentation with metastatic disease than their N-RAS-wild-type counterparts. All N-RAS mutant melanoma cultures tested in our study (n = 7) were sensitive to MEK inhibition 162. Exposure to MEK162 reduced ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and induced apoptosis. Clonogenic survival was significantly reduced in sensitive melanoma cell cultures.The prognosis of patients with melanoma expressing constitutively active N-RAS is poor, consistent with studies performed at other institutions. N-RAS mutant melanoma cultures appear to be particularly sensitive to MEK162, supporting ongoing clinical trials with MEK162 in N-RAS mutated melanoma.