Oncogenic KRAS-induced epiregulin overexpression contributes to aggressive phenotype and is a promising therapeutic target in non-small-cell lung cancer.
ABSTRACT: KRAS mutations are one of the most common driver mutations in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and finding druggable target molecules to inhibit oncogenic KRAS signaling is a significant challenge in NSCLC therapy. We recently identified epiregulin (EREG) as one of several putative transcriptional targets of oncogenic KRAS signaling in both KRAS-mutant NSCLC cells and immortalized bronchial epithelial cells expressing ectopic mutant KRAS. In the current study, we found that EREG is overexpressed in NSCLCs harboring KRAS, BRAF or EGFR mutations compared with NSCLCs with wild-type KRAS/BRAF/EGFR. Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) targeting mutant KRAS, but not an siRNA targeting wild-type KRAS, significantly reduced EREG expression in KRAS-mutant and EREG-overexpressing NSCLC cell lines. In these cell lines, EREG expression was downregulated by MEK and ERK inhibitors. Importantly, EREG expression significantly correlated with KRAS expression or KRAS copy number in KRAS-mutant NSCLC cell lines. Further expression analysis using 89 NSCLC specimens showed that EREG was predominantly expressed in NSCLCs with pleural involvement, lymphatic permeation or vascular invasion and in KRAS-mutant adenocarcinomas. In addition, multivariate analysis revealed that EREG expression is an independent prognostic marker and EREG overexpression in combination with KRAS mutations was associated with an unfavorable prognosis for lung adenocarcinoma patients. In KRAS-mutant and EREG overexpressing NSCLC cells, siRNA-mediated EREG silencing inhibited anchorage-dependent and -independent growth and induced apoptosis. Our findings suggest that oncogenic KRAS-induced EREG overexpression contributes to an aggressive phenotype and could be a promising therapeutic target in oncogenic KRAS-driven NSCLC.
Project description:Oncogenic KRAS is found in more than 25% of lung adenocarcinomas, the major histologic subtype of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and is an important target for drug development. To this end, we generated four NSCLC lines with stable knockdown selective for oncogenic KRAS. As expected, stable knockdown of oncogenic KRAS led to inhibition of in vitro and in vivo tumor growth in the KRAS-mutant NSCLC cells, but not in NSCLC cells that have wild-type KRAS (but mutant NRAS). Surprisingly, we did not see large-scale induction of cell death and the growth inhibitory effect was not complete. To further understand the ability of NSCLCs to grow despite selective removal of mutant KRAS expression, we conducted microarray expression profiling of NSCLC cell lines with or without mutant KRAS knockdown and isogenic human bronchial epithelial cell lines with and without oncogenic KRAS. We found that although the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway is significantly downregulated after mutant KRAS knockdown, these NSCLCs showed increased levels of phospho-STAT3 and phospho-epidermal growth factor receptor, and variable changes in phospho-Akt. In addition, mutant KRAS knockdown sensitized the NSCLCs to p38 and EGFR inhibitors. Our findings suggest that targeting oncogenic KRAS by itself will not be sufficient treatment, but may offer possibilities of combining anti-KRAS strategies with other targeted drugs.
Project description:A large fraction of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are dependent on defined oncogenic driver mutations. Although targeted agents exist for EGFR- and EML4-ALK-driven NSCLCs, no therapies target the most frequently found driver mutation, KRAS. Furthermore, acquired resistance to the currently targetable driver mutations is nearly universally observed. Clearly a novel therapeutic approach is needed to target oncogene-driven NSCLCs. We recently showed that the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor Twist1 cooperates with mutant Kras to induce lung adenocarcinoma in transgenic mouse models and that inhibition of Twist1 in these models led to Kras-induced senescence. In the current study, we examine the role of TWIST1 in oncogene-driven human NSCLCs. Silencing of TWIST1 in KRAS-mutant human NSCLC cell lines resulted in dramatic growth inhibition and either activation of a latent oncogene-induced senescence program or, in some cases, apoptosis. Similar effects were observed in EGFR mutation-driven and c-Met-amplified NSCLC cell lines. Growth inhibition by silencing of TWIST1 was independent of p53 or p16 mutational status and did not require previously defined mediators of senescence, p21 and p27, nor could this phenotype be rescued by overexpression of SKP2. In xenograft models, silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of KRAS-mutant, EGFR-mutant, and c-Met-amplified NSCLCs. Remarkably, inducible silencing of TWIST1 resulted in significant growth inhibition of established KRAS-mutant tumors. Together these findings suggest that silencing of TWIST1 in oncogene driver-dependent NSCLCs represents a novel and promising therapeutic strategy.
Project description:BACKGROUND: More than half of patients with KRAS-wild type advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) fail anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies. We studied EGFR-axis messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and RAS, RAF, PIK3CA mutations in order to identify additional biomarkers of cetuximab efficacy. METHODS: Previously genotyped (KRAS, NRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA mutations) formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumour biopsies of 226 cetuximab-treated CRC patients (1st to 3rd line therapy) were assessed for mRNA expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its ligands EGF, Transofrming Growth Factor-a (TGFA), Amphiregulin (AREG) and Epiregulin (EREG) with real time quantitative PCR. Mutations were detected in 72 (31.9%) tumours for KRAS, in 6 (2.65%) for BRAF, in 7 (3.1%) for NRAS and in 37 (16.4%) for PIK3CA. RESULTS: Only PIK3CA mutations occasionally coexisted with other gene mutations. In univariate analysis, prognostic significance for survival ( from metastases until death) was seen for BRAF mutations (Hazard Ratio HR 8.1, 95% CI 3.4-19), codon 12-only KRAS mutations (HR 1.62, 95% CI 1.1-2.4), high AREG mRNA expression only in KRAS wild type CRC (HR 0.47, 95% CI 0.3-0.7) and high EREG mRNA expression irrespective of KRAS mutation status (HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.28-0.7). EREG tumoural mRNA expression was significantly associated with a 2.26-fold increased likelihood of objective response to cetuximab therapy (RECIST 1.1). In multivariate analysis, favourable predictive factors were high AREG mRNA in KRAS wild type tumours, high EREG mRNA, low Ephrin A2 receptor mRNA. Cetuximab-treated patients with AREG-low KRAS wild type CRC fared very poorly, their survival being similar to KRAS mutant CRC. Patients with KRAS codon 13 or other non-codon 12 mutations had a median survival (30 months, 95% CI 20-35) similar to that of patients with KRAS wild-type (median survival 29 months, 95% CI 25-35), in contrast to patients with KRAS codon 12 mutations who fared worse (median survival 19 months, 95% CI 15-26). CONCLUSIONS: BRAF and codon 12 KRAS mutations predict for adverse outcome of CRC patients receiving cetuximab. AREG mRNA reflects EGFR signalling in KRAS wild type tumours, predicting for cetuximab efficacy when high and failure when low. EREG may have a prognostic role independent of KRAS mutation.
Project description:Oncogenic mutations in the BRAF kinase occur in 6-8% of nonsmall cell lung cancers (NSCLCs), accounting for more than 90,000 deaths annually worldwide. The biological and clinical relevance of these BRAF mutations in NSCLC is incompletely understood. Here we demonstrate that human NSCLC cells with BRAF(V600E), but not other BRAF mutations, initially are sensitive to BRAF-inhibitor treatment. However, these BRAF(V600E) NSCLC cells rapidly acquire resistance to BRAF inhibition through at least one of two discrete molecular mechanisms: (i) loss of full-length BRAF(V600E) coupled with expression of an aberrant form of BRAF(V600E) that retains RAF pathway dependence or (ii) constitutive autocrine EGF receptor (EGFR) signaling driven by c-Jun-mediated EGFR ligand expression. BRAF(V600E) cells with EGFR-driven resistance are characterized by hyperphosphorylated protein kinase AKT, a biomarker we validated in BRAF inhibitor-resistant NSCLC clinical specimens. These data reveal the multifaceted molecular mechanisms by which NSCLCs establish and regulate BRAF oncogene dependence, provide insights into BRAF-EGFR signaling crosstalk, and uncover mechanism-based strategies to optimize clinical responses to BRAF oncogene inhibition.
Project description:PURPOSE:BRAF mutations are found in a subset of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). We examined the clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes of patients with NSCLC harboring BRAF mutations. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:Using DNA sequencing, we successfully screened 883 patients with NSCLC for BRAF mutations between July 1, 2009 and July 16, 2012. Baseline characteristics and treatment outcomes were compared between patients with and without BRAF mutations. Wild-type controls consisted of patients with NSCLC without a somatic alteration in BRAF, KRAS, EGFR, and ALK. In vitro studies assessed the biologic properties of selected non-V600E BRAF mutations identified from patients with NSCLC. RESULTS:Of 883 tumors screened, 36 (4%) harbored BRAF mutations (V600E, 18; non-V600E, 18) and 257 were wild-type for BRAF, EGFR, KRAS, and ALK negative. Twenty-nine of 36 patients with BRAF mutations were smokers. There were no distinguishing clinical features between BRAF-mutant and wild-type patients. Patients with advanced NSCLC with BRAF mutations and wild-type tumors showed similar response rates and progression-free survival (PFS) to platinum-based combination chemotherapy and no difference in overall survival. Within the BRAF cohort, patients with V600E-mutated tumors had a shorter PFS to platinum-based chemotherapy compared with those with non-V600E mutations, although this did not reach statistical significance (4.1 vs. 8.9 months; P = 0.297). We identified five BRAF mutations not previously reported in NSCLC; two of five were associated with increased BRAF kinase activity. CONCLUSIONS:BRAF mutations occur in 4% of NSCLCs and half are non-V600E. Prospective trials are ongoing to validate BRAF as a therapeutic target in NSCLC.
Project description:Chromosomal rearrangements involving the gene ROS1 define a distinct molecular subset of NSCLCs with sensitivity to ROS1 inhibitors. Recent reports have suggested a significant overlap between ROS1 fusions and other oncogenic driver alterations, including mutations in EGFR and KRAS.We identified patients at our institution with ROS1-rearranged NSCLC who had undergone testing for genetic alterations in additional oncogenes, including EGFR, KRAS, and anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase gene (ALK). Clinicopathologic features and genetic testing results were reviewed. We also examined a separate database of ROS1-rearranged NSCLCs identified through the commercial FoundationOne assay (Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA).Among 62 patients with ROS1-rearranged NSCLC evaluated at our institution, none harbored concurrent ALK fusions (0%) or EGFR activating mutations (0%). KRAS mutations were detected in two cases (3.2%), one of which harbored a concurrent noncanonical KRAS I24N mutation of unknown biological significance. In a separate ROS1 fluorescence in situ hybridization-positive case, targeted sequencing failed to confirm a ROS1 fusion but instead identified a KRAS G13D mutation. No concurrent mutations in B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase gene (BRAF), erb-b2 receptor tyrosine kinase 2 gene (ERBB2), phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit alpha gene (PIK3CA), AKT/serine threonine kinase 1 gene (AKT1), or mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 gene (MAP2K1) were detected. Analysis of an independent data set of 166 ROS1-rearranged NSCLCs identified by FoundationOne demonstrated rare cases with co-occurring driver mutations in EGFR (one of 166) and KRAS (three of 166) and no cases with co-occurring ROS1 and ALK rearrangements.ROS1 rearrangements rarely overlap with alterations in EGFR, KRAS, ALK, or other targetable oncogenes in NSCLC.
Project description:Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. However, the identification of oncogenic driver alterations involved in the initiation and maintenance of NSCLC, such as epidermal growth factor receptor mutations and anaplastic lymphoma kinase translocation, has led to the development of novel therapies that directly target mutant proteins and associated signaling pathways, resulting in improved clinical outcomes. As sequencing techniques have improved, the molecular heterogeneity of NSCLC has become apparent, leading to the identification of a number of potentially actionable oncogenic driver mutations. Of these, one of the most promising therapeutic targets is B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase (BRAF). Mutations in BRAF, observed in 2%-4% of NSCLCs, typically lead to constitutive activation of the protein and, as a consequence, lead to activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway. Direct inhibition of mutant BRAF and/or the downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) has led to prolonged survival in patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma. This comprehensive review will discuss the clinical characteristics and prognostic implications of BRAF-mutant NSCLC, the clinical development of BRAF and MEK inhibitors from melanoma to NSCLC, and practical considerations for clinicians involving BRAF mutation screening and the choice of targeted therapy. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:Personalized medicine has begun to provide substantial benefit to patients with oncogene-driven non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, treatment options for patients with oncogenic driver mutations lacking targeted treatment strategies remain limited. Direct inhibition of mutant B-Raf proto-oncogene, serine/threonine kinase (BRAF) and/or downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) has the potential to change the course of the disease for patients with BRAF-mutant NSCLC, as it has in BRAF-mutant melanoma. Optimization of screening strategies for rare mutations and the choice of appropriate agents on an individual basis will be key to providing timely and successful intervention.
Project description:The KRAS mutation is present in ~20% of lung cancers and has not yet been effectively targeted for therapy. This mutation is associated with a poor prognosis in non-small-cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs) and confers resistance to standard anticancer treatment drugs, including epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors. In this study, we exploited a new therapeutic strategy based on the synthetic lethal interaction between cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) downregulation and the KRAS mutation to deliver micellar nanoparticles (MNPs) containing small interfering RNA targeting CDK4 (MNPsiCDK4) for treatment in NSCLCs harboring the oncogenic KRAS mutation. Following MNPsiCDK4 administration, CDK4 expression was decreased, accompanied by inhibited cell proliferation, specifically in KRAS mutant NSCLCs. However, this intervention was harmless to normal KRAS wild-type cells, confirming the proposed mechanism of synthetic lethality. Moreover, systemic delivery of MNPsiCDK4 significantly inhibited tumor growth in an A549 NSCLC xenograft murine model, with depressed expression of CDK4 and mutational KRAS status, suggesting the therapeutic promise of MNPsiCDK4 delivery in KRAS mutant NSCLCs via a synthetic lethal interaction between KRAS and CDK4.
Project description:Lung cancer is currently the most deadly malignancy in industrialized countries and accounts for 18% of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. Over 70% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are diagnosed at a late stage, with a 5-year survival below 10%. KRAS and the EGFR are frequently mutated in NSCLC and while targeted therapies for patients with EGFR mutations exist, oncogenic KRAS is thus far not druggable. KRAS activates multiple signalling pathways, including the PI3K/Akt pathway, the Raf-Mek-Erk pathway and the RalGDS/Ral pathway. Lung-specific expression of BrafV600E, the most prevalent BRAF mutation found in human tumors, results in Raf-Mek-Erk pathway activation and in the formation of benign adenomas that undergo widespread senescence in a Cre-activated Braf mouse model (Braf(CA)). However, oncogenic KRAS expression in mice induces adenocarcinomas, suggesting additional KRAS-activated pathways cooperate with sustained RAF-MEK-ERK signalling to bypass the oncogene-induced senescence proliferation arrest. To determine which KRAS effectors were responsible for tumor progression, we created four effector domain mutants (S35, G37, E38 and C40) in G12V-activated KRAS and expressed these alone or with BrafV600E in mouse lungs... The S35 and E38 mutants bind to Raf proteins but not PI3K or RalGDS; the G37 mutant binds to RalGDS and not Raf or PI3K and the C40 mutant is specific to PI3K. We designed lentiviral vectors to code for Cre recombinase along with KRAS mutants (V12, V12/S35, V12/G37, V12/E38 or V12/C40) or EGFP as a negative control.. These lentiviruses were used to infect Braf(CA) and wild-type mice. Surprisingly there was a significant decrease in tumor number and penetrance with each KRAS effector domain mutant relative to controls, suggesting that KRAS directly activates effectors with tumor suppressive functions.