BRAF Inhibitors: Molecular Targeting and Immunomodulatory Actions.
ABSTRACT: The BRAF inhibitors vemurafenib, dabrafenib and encorafenib are used in the treatment of patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma. They selectively target BRAF kinase and thus interfere with the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway that regulates the proliferation and survival of melanoma cells. In addition to their molecularly targeted activity, BRAF inhibitors have immunomodulatory effects. The MAPK pathway is involved in T-cell receptor signalling, and interference in the pathway by BRAF inhibitors has beneficial effects on the tumour microenvironment and anti-tumour immune response in BRAF-mutant melanoma, including increased immune-stimulatory cytokine levels, decreased immunosuppressive cytokine levels, enhanced melanoma differentiation antigen expression and presentation of tumour antigens by HLA 1, and increased intra-tumoral T-cell infiltration and activity. These effects promote recognition of the tumour by the immune system and enhance anti-tumour T-cell responses. Combining BRAF inhibitors with MEK inhibitors provides more complete blockade of the MAPK pathway. The immunomodulatory effects of BRAF inhibition alone or in combination with MEK inhibition provide a rationale for combining these targeted therapies with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Available data support the synergy between these treatment approaches, indicating such combinations provide an additional beneficial effect on the tumour microenvironment and immune response in BRAF-mutant melanoma.
Project description:Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer. Melanoma is usually curable with surgery if detected early, however, treatment options for patients with metastatic melanoma are limited and the five-year survival rate for metastatic melanoma had been 15-20% before the advent of immunotherapy. Treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors has increased long-term survival outcomes in patients with advanced melanoma to as high as 50% although individual response can vary greatly. A mutation within the MAPK pathway leads to uncontrollable growth and ultimately develops into cancer. The most common driver mutation that leads to this characteristic overactivation in the MAPK pathway is the B-RAF mutation. Current combinations of BRAF and MEK inhibitors that have demonstrated improved patient outcomes include dabrafenib with trametinib, vemurafenib with cobimetinib or encorafenib with binimetinib. Treatment with BRAF and MEK inhibitors has met challenges as patient responses began to drop due to the development of resistance to these inhibitors which paved the way for development of immunotherapies and other small molecule inhibitor approaches to address this. Resistance to these inhibitors continues to push the need to expand our understanding of novel mechanisms of resistance associated with treatment therapies. This review focuses on the current landscape of how resistance occurs with the chronic use of BRAF and MEK inhibitors in BRAF-mutant melanoma and progress made in the fields of immunotherapies and other small molecules when used alone or in combination with BRAF and MEK inhibitors to delay or circumvent the onset of resistance for patients with stage III/IV BRAF mutant melanoma.
Project description:With the advent of checkpoint inhibition, immunotherapy has revolutionized the clinical management of several cancers, but has demonstrated limited efficacy in mammary carcinoma. Transcriptomic profiling of cancer samples defined distinct immunophenotypic categories characterized by different prognostic and predictive connotations. In breast cancer, genomic alterations leading to the dysregulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways have been linked to an immune-silent phenotype associated with poor outcome and treatment resistance. These aberrations include mutations of MAP3K1 and MAP2K4, amplification of KRAS, BRAF, and RAF1, and truncations of NF1. Anticancer therapies targeting MAPK signaling by BRAF and MEK inhibitors have demonstrated clear immunologic effects. These off-target properties could be exploited to convert the immune-silent tumor phenotype into an immune-active one. Preclinical evidence supports that MAPK-pathway inhibition can dramatically increase the efficacy of immunotherapy. In this review, we provide a detailed overview of the immunomodulatory impact of MAPK-pathway blockade through BRAF and MEK inhibitions. While BRAF inhibition might be relevant in melanoma only, MEK inhibition is potentially applicable to a wide range of tumors. Context-dependent similarities and differences of MAPK modulation will be dissected, in light of the complexity of the MAPK pathways. Therapeutic strategies combining the favorable effects of MAPK-oriented interventions on the tumor microenvironment while maintaining T-cell function will be presented. Finally, we will discuss recent studies highlighting the rationale for the implementation of MAPK-interference approaches in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and immune agonists in breast cancer.
Project description:The discovery of activating mutations in the serine/threonine (S/T) kinase BRAF followed by a wave of follow-up research manifested that the MAPK-pathway plays a critical role in melanoma initiation and progression. BRAF and MEK inhibitors produce an unparalleled response rate in melanoma, but it is now clear that most responses are transient, and while some patients show long lasting responses the majority progress within 1 year. In accordance with the key role played by the MAPK-pathway in BRAF mutant melanomas, disease progression is mostly due to the appearance of drug-resistance mechanisms leading to restoration of MAPK-pathway activity. In the present article we will review the development, application and clinical effects of BRAF and MEK inhibitors both, as single agent and in combination in the context of targeted therapy in melanoma. We will then describe the most prominent mechanisms of resistance found in patients progressed on these targeted therapies. Finally we will discuss strategies for further optimizing the use of MAPK inhibitors and will describe the potential of alternative combination therapies to either delay the onset of resistance to MAPK inhibitors or directly target specific mechanisms of resistance to BRAF/MEK inhibitors.
Project description:Melanoma is increasing rapidly in incidence and prevalence, especially in younger females and older males. Treatment options have expanded beyond high-dose interleukin 2 and adoptive T-cell therapy to include inhibitors of immune checkpoints programmed death 1 (PD-1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) and small molecular inhibitors of pathways activated in melanoma, in particular the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. PD-1/CTLA-4 inhibitors and inhibitors of MAPK such as BRAF/MEK inhibitors have significantly improved survival in both the metastatic and, more recently, adjuvant settings. In this review, we discuss the preclinical data, clinical development, and potential use of novel MEK inhibitor binemetinib, particularly in the setting of NRAS mutant melanoma.
Project description:Nearly all patients with BRAF-mutant melanoma will progress on BRAF inhibitor monotherapy and combination BRAF/MEK inhibitor therapy within the first year of therapy. In the vast majority of progressing melanomas, resistance occurs via the re-activation of MAPK signalling, commonly via alterations in BRAF, NRAS and MEK1/2. A small proportion of resistant melanomas rely on the activation of the compensatory PI3K/AKT signalling cascade, although activation of this pathway does not preclude patient responses to BRAF/MEK inhibition. We now show, that PI3K/AKT signalling via potent oncogenic PIK3CA and AKT3 mutants, is not sufficient to overcome proliferative arrest induced by BRAF/MEK inhibition, but rather enables the survival of a dormant population of MAPK-inhibited melanoma cells. The evolution of resistance in these surviving tumour cells was associated with MAPK re-activation and no longer depended on the initial PI3K/AKT-activating oncogene. This dynamic form of resistance alters signalling dependence and may lead to the evolution of tumour subclones highly resistant to multiple targeted therapies.
Project description:Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway dysregulation is implicated in >30% of all cancers, rationalizing the development of RAF, MEK and ERK inhibitors. While BRAF and MEK inhibitors improve BRAF mutant melanoma patient outcomes, these inhibitors had limited success in other MAPK dysregulated tumors, with insufficient pathway suppression and likely pathway reactivation. In this study we show that inhibition of either MEK or ERK alone only transiently inhibits the MAPK pathway due to feedback reactivation. Simultaneous targeting of both MEK and ERK nodes results in deeper and more durable suppression of MAPK signaling that is not achievable with any dose of single agent, in tumors where feedback reactivation occurs. Strikingly, combined MEK and ERK inhibition is synergistic in RAS mutant models but only additive in BRAF mutant models where the RAF complex is dissociated from RAS and thus feedback productivity is disabled. We discovered that pathway reactivation in RAS mutant models occurs at the level of CRAF with combination treatment resulting in a markedly more active pool of CRAF. However, distinct from single node targeting, combining MEK and ERK inhibitor treatment effectively blocks the downstream signaling as assessed by transcriptional signatures and phospho-p90RSK. Importantly, these data reveal that MAPK pathway inhibitors whose activity is attenuated due to feedback reactivation can be rescued with sufficient inhibition by using a combination of MEK and ERK inhibitors. The MEK and ERK combination significantly suppresses MAPK pathway output and tumor growth in vivo to a greater extent than the maximum tolerated doses of single agents, and results in improved anti-tumor activity in multiple xenografts as well as in two Kras mutant genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models. Collectively, these data demonstrate that combined MEK and ERK inhibition is functionally unique, yielding greater than additive anti-tumor effects and elucidates a highly effective combination strategy in MAPK-dependent cancer, such as KRAS mutant tumors.
Project description:Until recently there was no effective systemic therapy for metastatic melanoma. Increased understanding of tumor biology and immune regulation has led to the development of drugs targeting the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway (BRAF inhibitors and MEK inhibitors) and T-cell regulation (CTLA4 antibodies). These drugs are the new standard of care, however barriers to better patient outcomes include limited responses and significant toxicities (CTLA4 antibodies) and lack of durability in the majority of cases (BRAF and MEK inhibitors). This review discusses the next stages of development of treatments in melanoma, including immune checkpoint blocking drugs targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis, and the use of BRAF and MEK inhibitors in combination. Both approaches lead to a higher proportion of durable responses coupled with less toxicity. In an effort to improve outcomes even further, clinical trials of combinations of MAPK inhibitors, immunotherapies and other signal pathway inhibitors are underway. Adjuvant studies of many of these drugs have commenced, with the hope of also improving outcomes in patients with early-stage melanoma.
Project description:Immunotherapy of advanced melanoma with CTLA-4 or PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade induces in a proportion of patients long durable responses. In contrast, targeting the MAPK-pathway by selective BRAF and MEK inhibitors induces high response rates, but most patients relapse. Combining targeted therapy with immunotherapy is proposed to improve the long-term outcomes of patients. Preclinical data endorsing this hypothesis are accumulating. Inhibition of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway may be a promising treatment option to overcome resistance to MAPK inhibition and for additional combination with immunotherapy. We therefore evaluated to which extent dual targeting of the MAPK and PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathways affects tumor immune infiltrates and whether it synergizes with PD-1 checkpoint blockade in a BRAFV600E/PTEN-/--driven melanoma mouse model. Short-term dual BRAF + MEK inhibition enhanced tumor immune infiltration and improved tumor control when combined with PD-1 blockade in a CD8+ T cell dependent manner. Additional PI3K inhibition did not impair tumor control or immune cell infiltration and functionality. Analysis of on-treatment samples from melanoma patients treated with BRAF or BRAF + MEK inhibitors indicates that inhibitor-mediated T cell infiltration occurred in all patients early after treatment initiation but was less frequent found in on-treatment biopsies beyond day 15. Our findings provide a rationale for clinical testing of short-term BRAF + MEK inhibition in combination with immune checkpoint blockade, currently implemented at our institutes. Additional PI3K inhibition could be an option for BRAF + MEK inhibitor resistant patients that receive targeted therapy in combination with immune checkpoint blockade.
Project description:Reovirus type 3 (Dearing) (RT3D) infection is selective for cells harboring a mutated/activated RAS pathway. Therefore, in a panel of melanoma cell lines (including RAS mutant, BRAF mutant and RAS/BRAF wild-type), we assessed therapeutic combinations that enhance/suppress ERK1/2 signaling through use of BRAF/MEK inhibitors. In RAS mutant cells, the combination of RT3D with the BRAF inhibitor PLX4720 (paradoxically increasing ERK1/2 signaling in this context) did not enhance reoviral cytotoxicity. Instead, and somewhat surprisingly, RT3D and BRAF inhibition led to enhanced cell kill in BRAF mutated cell lines. Likewise, ERK1/2 inhibition, using the MEK inhibitor PD184352, in combination with RT3D resulted in enhanced cell kill in the entire panel. Interestingly, TCID50 assays showed that BRAF and MEK inhibitors did not affect viral replication. Instead, enhanced efficacy was mediated through ER stress-induced apoptosis, induced by the combination of ERK1/2 inhibition and reovirus infection. In vivo, combined treatments of RT3D and PLX4720 showed significantly increased activity in BRAF mutant tumors in both immune-deficient and immune-competent models. These data provide a strong rationale for clinical translation of strategies in which RT3D is combined with BRAF inhibitors (in BRAF mutant melanoma) and/or MEK inhibitors (in BRAF and RAS mutant melanoma).