The Hippo effector YAP promotes resistance to RAF- and MEK-targeted cancer therapies.
ABSTRACT: Resistance to RAF- and MEK-targeted therapy is a major clinical challenge. RAF and MEK inhibitors are initially but only transiently effective in some but not all patients with BRAF gene mutation and are largely ineffective in those with RAS gene mutation because of resistance. Through a genetic screen in BRAF-mutant tumor cells, we show that the Hippo pathway effector YAP (encoded by YAP1) acts as a parallel survival input to promote resistance to RAF and MEK inhibitor therapy. Combined YAP and RAF or MEK inhibition was synthetically lethal not only in several BRAF-mutant tumor types but also in RAS-mutant tumors. Increased YAP in tumors harboring BRAF V600E was a biomarker of worse initial response to RAF and MEK inhibition in patients, establishing the clinical relevance of our findings. Our data identify YAP as a new mechanism of resistance to RAF- and MEK-targeted therapy. The findings unveil the synthetic lethality of combined suppression of YAP and RAF or MEK as a promising strategy to enhance treatment response and patient survival.
Project description:RAF- and MEK-targeted therapies are approved for patients with BRAF(V600E) melanoma and under investigation in a several other tumor types, but resistance remains a major challenge. We uncovered yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) as a mechanism of resistance to RAF-MEK inhibition in BRAF- and RAS-mutant cancers, providing a rationale for co-targeting YAP and RAF-MEK to enhance patient outcomes.
Project description:Through a genetic screen in BRAF mutant tumor cells, we show that the Hippo pathway effector YAP acts as a parallel survival input to promote resistance to RAF-MEK inhibitor therapy. Our data uncover YAP as a novel mechanism of resistance to RAF-MEK targeted therapy. The findings unveil the synthetic lethality of YAP and RAF-MEK co-suppression as a promising strategy to enhance response and patient survival. Overall design: RNAseq analysis of HCC364 (lung adenocarcinoma) cells in the context of drug treatment with PLX4720 (vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor) or Trametinib (a MEK inhibitor) alongside shRNA knockdown of the gene YAP1
Project description:Tumours with mutant BRAF are dependent on the RAF-MEK-ERK signalling pathway for their growth. We found that ATP-competitive RAF inhibitors inhibit ERK signalling in cells with mutant BRAF, but unexpectedly enhance signalling in cells with wild-type BRAF. Here we demonstrate the mechanistic basis for these findings. We used chemical genetic methods to show that drug-mediated transactivation of RAF dimers is responsible for paradoxical activation of the enzyme by inhibitors. Induction of ERK signalling requires direct binding of the drug to the ATP-binding site of one kinase of the dimer and is dependent on RAS activity. Drug binding to one member of RAF homodimers (CRAF-CRAF) or heterodimers (CRAF-BRAF) inhibits one protomer, but results in transactivation of the drug-free protomer. In BRAF(V600E) tumours, RAS is not activated, thus transactivation is minimal and ERK signalling is inhibited in cells exposed to RAF inhibitors. These results indicate that RAF inhibitors will be effective in tumours in which BRAF is mutated. Furthermore, because RAF inhibitors do not inhibit ERK signalling in other cells, the model predicts that they would have a higher therapeutic index and greater antitumour activity than mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitors, but could also cause toxicity due to MEK/ERK activation. These predictions have been borne out in a recent clinical trial of the RAF inhibitor PLX4032 (refs 4, 5). The model indicates that promotion of RAF dimerization by elevation of wild-type RAF expression or RAS activity could lead to drug resistance in mutant BRAF tumours. In agreement with this prediction, RAF inhibitors do not inhibit ERK signalling in cells that coexpress BRAF(V600E) and mutant RAS.
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: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:Tumors with mutant BRAF and some with mutant RAS are dependent upon ERK signaling for proliferation, and their growth is suppressed by MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors. In contrast, tumor cells with human EGF receptor (HER) kinase activation proliferate in a MEK-independent manner. These findings have led to the development of RAF and MEK inhibitors as anticancer agents. Like MEK inhibitors, the RAF inhibitor PLX4032 inhibits the proliferation of BRAF(V600E) tumor cells but not that of HER kinase-dependent tumors. However, tumors with RAS mutation that are sensitive to MEK inhibition are insensitive to PLX4032. MEK inhibitors inhibit ERK phosphorylation in all normal and tumor cells, whereas PLX4032 inhibits ERK signaling only in tumor cells expressing BRAF(V600E). In contrast, the drug activates MEK and ERK phosphorylation in cells with wild-type BRAF. In BRAF(V600E) tumor cells, MEK and RAF inhibitors affect the expression of a common set of genes. PLX4032 inhibits ERK signaling output in mutant BRAF cells, whereas it transiently activates the expression of these genes in tumor cells with wild-type RAF. Thus, PLX4032 inhibits ERK signaling output in a mutant BRAF-selective manner. These data explain why the drug selectively inhibits the growth of mutant BRAF tumors and suggest that it will not cause toxicity resulting from the inhibition of ERK signaling in normal cells. This selectivity may lead to a broader therapeutic index and help explain the greater antitumor activity observed with this drug than with MEK inhibitors.
Project description:Targeted therapies within the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK signalling axis become increasingly popular, yet cross-talk and feedbacks in the signalling network lead to unexpected effects. Here we look systematically into how inhibiting RAF and MEK with clinically relevant inhibitors result in changes in PI3K/AKT activation. We measure the signalling response using a bead-based ELISA, and use a panel of three cell lines, and isogenic cell lines that express mutant forms of the oncogenes KRAS and BRAF to interrogate the effects of the MEK and RAF inhibitors on signalling. We find that treatment with the RAF inhibitors have opposing effects on AKT phosphorylation depending on the mutational status of two important oncogenes, KRAS and BRAF. If these two genes are in wildtype configuration, RAF inhibitors reduce AKT phosphorylation. In contrast, if BRAF or KRAS are mutant, RAF inhibitors will leave AKT phosphorylation unaffected or lead to an increase of AKT phosphorylation. Down-regulation of phospho-AKT by RAF inhibitors also extends to downstream transcription factors, and correlates with apoptosis induction. Our results show that oncogenes rewire signalling such that targeted therapies can have opposing effects on parallel pathways, which depend on the mutational status of the cell.
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:Multiple myeloma (MM) is a plasma cell malignancy that is still considered to be incurable in most cases. A dominant mutation cluster has been identified in RAS/RAF genes, emphasizing the potential significance of RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK signaling as a therapeutic target. As yet, however, the clinical relevance of this finding is unclear as clinical responses to MEK inhibition in RAS-mutant MM have been mixed. We therefore assessed RAS/RAF mutation status and MEK/ERK pathway activation by both targeted sequencing and phospho-ERK immunohistochemistry in 180 tissue biopsies from 103 patients with newly diagnosed MM (NDMM) and 77 patients with relapsed/refractory MM (rrMM). We found a significant enrichment of RAS/BRAF mutations in rrMM compared to NDMM (P=0.011), which was mainly due to an increase of NRAS mutations (P=0.010). As expected, BRAF mutations were significantly associated with activated downstream signaling. However, only KRAS and not NRAS mutations were associated with pathway activation compared to RAS/BRAFwt (P=0.030). More specifically, only KRASG12D and BRAFV600E were consistently associated with ERK activation (P<0.001 and P=0.006, respectively). Taken together, these results suggest the need for a more specific stratification strategy consisting of both confirmation of protein-level pathway activation as well as detailed RAS/RAF mutation status to allow for a more precise and more effective application of targeted therapies, for example, with BRAF/MEK inhibitors in MM.
Project description:BACKGROUND:This multicenter, open-label, phase Ib study investigated the safety and efficacy of binimetinib (MEK inhibitor) in combination with buparlisib (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase [PI3K] inhibitor) in patients with advanced solid tumors with RAS/RAF alterations. MATERIALS AND METHODS:Eighty-nine patients were enrolled in the study. Eligible patients had advanced solid tumors with disease progression after standard therapy and/or for which no standard therapy existed. Evaluable disease was mandatory, per RECIST version 1.1 and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0-2. Binimetinib and buparlisib combinations were explored in patients with KRAS-, NRAS-, or BRAF-mutant advanced solid tumors until the maximum tolerated dose and recommended phase II dose (RP2D) were defined. The expansion phase comprised patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant, advanced non-small cell lung cancer, after progression on an EGFR inhibitor; advanced RAS- or BRAF-mutant ovarian cancer; or advanced non-small cell lung cancer with KRAS mutation. RESULTS:At data cutoff, 32/89 patients discontinued treatment because of adverse events. RP2D for continuous dosing was buparlisib 80 mg once daily/binimetinib 45 mg twice daily. The toxicity profile of the combination resulted in a lower dose intensity than anticipated. Six (12.0%) patients with RAS/BRAF-mutant ovarian cancer achieved a partial response. Pharmacokinetics of binimetinib were not altered by buparlisib. Pharmacodynamic analyses revealed downregulation of pERK and pS6 in tumor biopsies. CONCLUSION:Although dual inhibition of MEK and the PI3K pathways showed promising activity in RAS/BRAF ovarian cancer, continuous dosing resulted in intolerable toxicities beyond the dose-limiting toxicity monitoring period. Alternative schedules such as pulsatile dosing may be advantageous when combining therapies. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:Because dysregulation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathways are both frequently involved in resistance to current targeted therapies, dual inhibition of both pathways may be required to overcome resistance mechanisms to single-agent tyrosine kinase inhibitors or to treat cancers with driver mutations that cannot be directly targeted. A study investigating the safety and efficacy of combination binimetinib (MEK inhibitor) and buparlisib (PI3K inhibitor) in patients harboring alterations in the RAS/RAF pathway was conducted. The results may inform the design of future combination therapy trials in patients with tumors harboring mutations in the PI3K and MAPK pathways.