Posts Tagged ‘Resistance to MEK inhibitors’

Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 27, 2020 Minisymposium on Drugging Undrugged Cancer Targets 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm

SESSION VMS.ET01.01 – Drugging Undrugged Cancer Targets

April 27, 2020, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Virtual Meeting: All Session Times Are U.S. EDT

Session Type
Virtual Minisymposium
Experimental and Molecular Therapeutics,Drug Development
18 Presentations
1:30 PM – 1:30 PM
– ChairpersonPeter C. Lucas. University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA

1:30 PM – 1:30 PM
– ChairpersonJohn S. Lazo. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

1:30 PM – 1:35 PM
– IntroductionPeter C. Lucas. University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA

1:35 PM – 1:45 PM
3398 – PTPN22 is a systemic target for augmenting antitumor immunityWon Jin Ho, Jianping Lin, Ludmila Danilova, Zaw Phyo, Soren Charmsaz, Aditya Mohan, Todd Armstrong, Ben H. Park, Elana J. Fertig, Zhong-Yin Zhang, Elizabeth M. Jaffee. Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comp. Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD, Purdue University, Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comp. Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Baltimore, MD

Abstract: Remarkable progress in cancer immunology has revolutionized cancer therapy. The majority of patients, however, do not respond to immunotherapeutic options, warranting the ongoing search for better strategies. Leveraging the established role of protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) in autoimmune diseases, we hypothesized that PTPN22 is a novel target for cancer immunotherapy. PTPN22 is a physiologic regulator of T cell receptor (TCR) signaling acting by dephosphorylating activating tyrosine residues in Lck and Zap70. We first confirmed the relevance of PTPN22 expression by exploring its expression in multiple human cancer types using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). PTPN22 expression positively correlated with T cell and M1 macrophage gene signatures and immune regulatory genes, especially inflamed tumor types. Next, we directly investigated the role of PTPN22 in antitumor immunity by comparing in vivo tumor characteristics in wild-type (WT) and PTPN22 knockout (KO) mice. Consistent with our hypothesis, PTPN22 KO mice resisted MC38 and EG7 tumors significantly compared with WT. Mass cytometry (CyTOF) profiling of the immune tumor microenvironment demonstrated that MC38 tumors in PTPN22 KO mice were infiltrated with greater numbers of T cells, particularly CD8+ T cells expressing granzyme B and PD1. To further delineate the effects of PTPN22 KO on TCR signaling, we established an optimized CyTOF panel of 9 phosphorylation sites involved in the TCR signaling pathway, including two enzymatic substrates of PTPN22 (Lck Y394 and Zap70 Y493) and 15 immune subtyping markers. CyTOF phospho-profiling of CD8 T cells from tumor-bearing mouse spleens and the peripheral blood of immunotherapy-naïve cancer patients showed that the phosphorylated state of Zap70 Y493 correlated strongly with granzyme B expression. Furthermore, phospho-profiling of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells (a measure of T cell activation) revealed the highest TCR-pathway phosphorylation levels in memory CD8+ T cells that express PD1. The difference in phosphorylation levels between WT and PTPN22 KO was most pronounced for Lck Y394. Based on these findings, we then hypothesized that PD1 inhibition will further enhance the antitumor immune responses promoted by the lack of PTPN22. Indeed, PTPN22 KO mice bearing MC38 and EG7 tumors responded more significantly to anti-PD1 therapy when compared with tumor-bearing WT mice. Finally, we treated WT tumor bearing mice with two different small molecule inhibitors of PTPN22, one previously published compound, LTV1, and one novel compound, L1 (discovered through structure based synthesis). While both inhibitors phenocopied the PTPN22 KO mice in resisting MC38 tumor growth, L1 treatment gave an immune profile that resembled what was observed in tumor-bearing PTPN22 KO mice. Taken together, our results demonstrate that PTPN22 is a novel systemic target for augmenting antitumor immunity.

  • can they leverage autoimmune data to look at new targets for checkpoint inhibition; we have a long way to go in immunooncology as only less than 30-40% of cancer types respond
  • using Cancer Genome Atlas PTPN22 is associated with autoimmune disorders
  • PTPN22 KO increases many immune cells; macrophages t-cells and when KO in tumors get more t cell infiltrate
  • PTP KO enhances t cell response, and may be driving t cells to exhaustion
  • made a inhibitor or PTPN22; antitumor phenotype when given inhibitor was like KO mice; a PDL1 inhibitor worked in KO mice
  • PTPN22 only in select hematopoetic cells

1:45 PM – 1:50 PM
– Discussion

1:50 PM – 2:00 PM
3399 – Preclinical evaluation of eFT226, a potent and selective eIF4A inhibitor with anti-tumor activity in FGFR1,2 and HER2 driven cancers. Peggy A. Thompson, Nathan P. Young, Adina Gerson-Gurwitz, Boreth Eam, Vikas Goel, Craig R. Stumpf, Joan Chen, Gregory S. Parker, Sarah Fish, Maria Barrera, Eric Sung, Jocelyn Staunton, Gary G. Chiang, Kevin R. Webster. eFFECTOR Therapeutics, San Diego, CA @RuggeroDavide

Abstract: Mutations or amplifications affecting receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) activate the RAS/MAPK and PI3K/AKT signaling pathways thereby promoting cancer cell proliferation and survival. Oncoprotein expression is tightly controlled at the level of mRNA translation and is regulated by the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4F (eIF4F) complex consisting of eIF4A, eIF4E, and eIF4G. eIF4A functions to catalyze the unwinding of secondary structure in the 5’-untranslated region (5’-UTR) of mRNA facilitating ribosome scanning and translation initiation. The activation of oncogenic signaling pathways, including RAS and PI3K, facilitate formation of eIF4F and enhance eIF4A activity promoting the translation of oncogenes with highly structured 5’-UTRs that are required for tumor cell proliferation, survival and metastasis. eFT226 is a selective eIF4A inhibitor that converts eIF4A into a sequence specific translational repressor by increasing the affinity between eIF4A and 5’-UTR polypurine motifs leading to selective downregulation of mRNA translation. The polypurine element is highly enriched in the 5’-UTR of eFT226 target genes, many of which are known oncogenic drivers, including FGFR1,2 and HER2, enabling eFT226 to selectively inhibit dysregulated oncogene expression. Formation of a ternary complex [eIF4A-eFT226-mRNA] blocks ribosome scanning along the 5’-UTR leading to dose dependent inhibition of RTK protein expression. The 5’-UTR sequence dependency of eFT226 translational inhibition was evaluated in cell-based reporter assays demonstrating 10-45-fold greater sensitivity for reporter constructs containing an RTK 5’-UTR compared to a control. In solid tumor cell lines driven by alterations in FGFR1, FGFR2 or HER2, downregulation of RTK expression by eFT226 resulted in decreased MAPK and AKT signaling, potent inhibition of cell proliferation and an induction of apoptosis suggesting that eFT226 could be effective in treating tumor types dependent on these oncogenic drivers. Solid tumor xenograft models harboring FGFR1,2 or HER2 amplifications treated with eFT226 resulted in significant in vivo tumor growth inhibition and regression at well tolerated doses in breast, non-small cell lung and colorectal cancer models. Treatment with eFT226 also decreased RTK protein levels supporting the potential to use these eFT226 target genes as pharmacodynamic markers of target engagement. Further evaluation of predictive markers of sensitivity or resistance showed that RTK tumor models with mTOR mediated activation of eIF4A are most sensitive to eFT226. The association of eFT226 activity in RTK tumor models with mTOR pathway activation provides a means to further enrich for sensitive patient subsets during clinical development. Clinical trials with eFT226 in patients with solid tumor malignancies have initiated.
  • ternary complex formed blocks transcription selectively downregulating RTKs
  • drug binds in 5′ UTR and inhibits translation
  • RTKs activate eIF4 and are also transcribed through them so inhibition destroys this loop;  also with KRAS too
  • main antitumor activity are by an apoptotic mechanisms; refractory tumors are not sensitive to drug induced apoptosis
  • drug inhibits FGFR2 in colorectal cancer
  • drug also effective in HER2+ tumors
  • mTOR mediated eIF4 inhibited by drug
  • they get prolonged antitumor activity after washout of drug because forms this tight terniary complex

2:00 PM – 2:05 PM
– Discussion

2:05 PM – 2:15 PM
3400 – Adenosine receptor antagonists exhibit potent and selective off-target killing of FOXA1-high cancers: Steven M. Corsello, Ryan D. Spangler, Ranad Humeidi, Caitlin N. Harrington, Rohith T. Nagari, Ritu Singh, Vickie Wang, Mustafa Kocak, Jordan Rossen, Amael Madec, Nancy Dumont, Todd R. Golub. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA @corsellos

Abstract: Drugs targeting adenosine receptors were originally developed for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and are now being tested in immuno-oncology clinical trials in combination with checkpoint inhibitors. We recently reported the killing activity of 4,518 drugs against 578 diverse cancer cell lines determined using the PRISM molecular barcoding approach. Surprisingly, three established adenosine receptor antagonists (CGS-15943, MRS-1220, and SCH-58261) showed potent and selective killing of FOXA1-high cancer cell lines without the need for immune cells. FOXA1 is a lineage-restricted transcription factor in luminal breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and prostate cancer without known small molecule inhibitors. We find that cytotoxic activity is limited to adenosine antagonists with a three-member aromatic core bound to a furan group, thus indicating a potential off-target mechanism of action. To identify genomic modulators of drug response, we performed genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 knockout modifier screens. Killing by CGS-15943 and MRS-1220 was rescued by knockout of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and its nuclear partner ARNT. In confirmatory studies, knockout of AHR completely rescued killing by CGS-15943 in multiple cell types. Co-treatment with an AHR small molecule antagonist also rescued cell viability. Knockout of adenosine receptors did not alter drug response. Given that AHR is a known transcriptional regulator, we performed global mRNA sequencing to assess transcriptional changes induced by CGS-15943. The top two genes induced were the p450 enzymes CYP1A1 and CYP1B1. To determine sufficiency, we overexpressed CYP1A1 in a resistant cell line. Ectopic CYP1A1 expression sensitized to CGS-15943-mediated killing. Mass spectrometry revealed covalent trapping of a reactive metabolite by glutathione and potassium cyanide following in vitro incubation with liver microsomes. In addition, treatment of breast cancer cells with CGS-15943 for 24 hours resulted in increased γ-H2AX phosphorylation by western blot, indicative of DNA double stranded breaks. In summary, we identified off-target anti-cancer activity of multiple established adenosine receptor antagonists mediated by activation of AHR. Future studies will evaluate the functional contribution of FOXA1 and activity in vivo. Starting from a phenotypic screening hit, we leverage functional genomics to unlock the underlying mechanism of action. This project will pave the way for developing more effective therapies for biomarker-selected cancers, with potential to improve the care of patients with liver, breast, and prostate cancer.

  • developed a chemical library of over 6000 compounds (QC’d) to determine drugs that have antitumor effects
  • used a PRISM barcoded library to make cell lines to screen genotype-phenotype screens
  • for nononcology drugs fourteen drugs had activity in the PRISM assay
  • FOXA1 transcription factor high cancer cells seemed to be inhibited best with adenosine receptor inhibitor found in PRISM assay

2:15 PM – 2:20 PM
– Discussion

2:20 PM – 2:30 PM
3401 – Targeting lysosomal homeostasis in ovarian cancer through drug repurposing: Stefano Marastoni, Aleksandra Pesic, Sree Narayanan Nair, Zhu Juan Li, Ali Madani, Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Bradly G. Wouters, Anthony Joshua. University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada, Janssen Inc, Toronto, ON, Canada, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Sydney, Australia

Background: Drug repurposing has become increasingly attractive as it avoids the long processes and costs associated with drug discovery. Itraconazole (Itra) is a broad-spectrum anti-fungal agent which has an established broad spectrum of activity in human cell lines including cholesterol antagonism and inhibition of Hedgehog and mTOR pathways. Many in vitro, in vivo and clinical studies have suggested anti-proliferative activity both alone and in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents, in particular in ovarian cancer. This study is aimed at supporting the therapeutic potential of Itra and discovering and repurposing new drugs that can increase Itra anticancer activity as well as identifying new targets in the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Methods: We tested a panel of 32 ovarian cancer cell lines with different doses of Itra and identified a subset of cells which showed significant sensitivity to the drug. To identify genetic vulnerabilities and find new therapeutic targets to combine with Itra, we performed a whole genome sensitivity CRISPR screen in 2 cell lines (TOV1946 and OVCAR5) treated with non-toxic (IC10) concentrations of Itra.
Results: Pathway analysis on the top hits from both the screens showed a significant involvement of lysosomal compartments, and in particular dynamics between trans Golgi network and late endosomes/lysosomes, pathways that are affected by the autophagy inhibitor Chloroquine (CQ). We subsequently demonstrated that the combination of Itra and CQ had a synergistic effect in many ovarian cancer cell lines, even in those resistant to Itra. Further, genetic and pharmacological manipulation of autophagy indicated that upstream inhibition of autophagy is not a key mediator of the Itra/CQ mechanism of action. However, combination of Itra with other lysosomotropic agents (Concanamycin A, Bafilomycin A and Tamoxifen) displayed overlapping activity with Itra/CQ, supporting the lysosomal involvement in sensitizing cells to Itra resulted from the CRISPR screens. Analysis of lysosomal pattern and function showed a combined effect of Itra and CQ in targeting lysosomes and neutralizing their activity.
Conclusion: We identified two FDA approved drugs – CQ and Tamoxifen – that can be used in combination with Itra and exert a potent anti-tumor effect in ovarian cancer by affecting lyosomal function and suggesting a likely dependency of these cells on lysosomal biology. Further studies are in progress.

  • repurposing itraconozole in ovarian cancer potential mechanism of action is pleitropic
  • increasing doses of chloroquine caused OVCA cell death by accumulating in Golgi

2:30 PM – 2:35 PM
– Discussion

2:35 PM – 2:45 PM
3402 – BCAT1 as a druggable target in immuno-oncologyAdonia E. Papathanassiu, Francesca Lodi, Hagar Elkafrawy, Michelangelo Certo, Hong Vu, Jeong Hun Ko, Jacques Behmoaras, Claudio Mauro, Diether Lambrechts. Ergon Pharmaceuticals, Washington, DC, VIB Cancer Centre-KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom, Ergon Pharmaceuticals, Washington, DC, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom

2:45 PM – 2:50 PM
– Discussion

2:50 PM – 3:00 PM
3403 – Drugging the undruggable: Lessons learned from protein phosphatase 2A: Derek Taylor, Goutham Narla. Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI @gouthamnarla

Abstract: Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is a key tumor suppressor responsible for the dephosphorylation of many oncogenic signaling pathways. The PP2A holoenzyme is comprised of a scaffolding subunit (A), which serves as the structural platform for the catalytic subunit (C) and for an array of regulatory subunits (B) to assemble. Impairment of PP2A is essential for the pathogenesis of many diseases including cancer. In cancer, PP2A is inactivated through a variety of mechanisms including somatic mutation of the Aαsubunit. Our studies show that the most recurrent Aαmutation, P179R, results in an altered protein conformation which prevents the catalytic subunit from binding. Additionally, correcting this mutation, by expressing wild type PP2A Aαin cell lines harboring the P179R mutation, causes a reduction in tumor growth and metastasis. Given its central role in human disease pathogenesis, many strategies have been developed to therapeutically target PP2A.Our lab developed a series of small molecules activators of protein phosphatase 2A. One of our more advanced analogs in this series, DT-061, drives dephosphorylation and degradation of select pathogenic substrates of PP2A such as c-MYC in cellular and in vivo systems. Additionally, we have demonstrated the phosphomimetics of MYC that prevent PP2A mediated dephosphorylation and degradation markedly reduce the anti-tumorigenic activity of this series of PP2A activators further validating the target-substrate specificity of this approach. Specific mutations in the site of drug interaction or overexpression of the DNA tumor virus small T antigen which has been shown to specifically bind to and inactivate PP2A abrogate the in vivo activity of this small molecule series further validating the PP2A specificity of this approach. Importantly, treatment with DT-061 results in tumor growth inhibition in an array of in vivocancer models and marked regressions in combination with MEKi and PARPi.To further define the mechanism of action of this small molecule series, we have used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualize directly theinteraction between DT-061 and a PP2A heterotrimeric complex. We have identified molecular interactions between DT-061 and all three PP2A subunits that prevent dissociation of the active enzyme through the marked prolongation of the kOFF of the native complex. Furthermore, we demonstrate that DT-061 specifically stabilizes the B56α-PP2A holoenzyme in a fully assembled, active state to dephosphorylate oncogenic targets such as c-MYC in both cellular and in vivo systems. This 3.6 Å structure identifies dynamic molecular interactions between the three distinct PP2A subunits and highlight the inherent mechanisms of PP2A complex assembly and disassembly in both cell free and cellular systems. Thus, our findings provide fundamental insights into PP2A complex assembly and regulation, identify a unique interfacial stabilizing mode of action for the therapeutic targeting of previously undruggable proteins, and aid in the development of phosphatase-based therapeutics tailored against disease specific phosphor-protein targets. The marriage of multidisciplinary scientific practices has allowed us to present here a previously unrecognized therapeutic strategy of complex stabilization for the activation of endogenous disease combating enzymes.

  • Reactivating PP2A; dephosphorylation of proteins (serine/threonine phosphatases); regulates multiple processes in the cell
  • SV40T has an antigen that inactivates PP2A; recurrent mutations in high grade endometrial cancers
  • P179R mutation promotes uterine tumor formation (also in a distal tubule ligation model)
  • project started in a phenotypic screen that tricyclic antidepressants could have an off target which was phosphatase activators (uncoupling GPCR from anticancer activity)
  • small T antigen block the activity of these small molecule activators;
  • acts as a molecular glue to bring the activators with a heterotrimer of phosphatases
  • so their small molecule activators effective in triple negative breast cancers;  one of targets of PP2A is MYC
  • question: have not yet seen resistance to these compounds but are currently looking at this


3:00 PM – 3:05 PM
– Discussion

3:05 PM – 3:15 PM
3404 – Inhibition of BCL10-MALT1 interaction to treat diffuse large B-cell lymphomaH: eejae Kang, Dong Hu, Marcelo Murai, Ahmed Mady, Bill Chen, Zaneta Nikolovska-Coleska, Linda M. McAllister-Lucas, Peter C. Lucas. University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, Merck, Kenilworth, NJ, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, UPMC Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA

Abstract: The CARMA1/BCL10/MALT1 (CBM) signaling complex mediates antigen receptor-induced activation of NF-kB in lymphocytes to support normal adaptive immunity. As the effector protein of the complex, MALT1 exhibits two activities: protease and scaffolding activities. Gain-of-function mutations in the CARMA1 moiety or its upstream regulators trigger antigen-independent assembly of oligomeric CBM complexes, leading to constitutive activation of MALT1, unregulated NF-kB activity, and development of Activated B-Cell subtype of Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (ABC-DLBCL). Existing MALT1 inhibitors block only MALT1 protease activity, causing incomplete and unbalanced inhibition of MALT1, and have the potential for inducing autoimmune side effects. Since MALT1 is recruited to the CBM complex via its interaction with BCL10, we sought to identify inhibitors of BCL10-MALT1 interaction in order to target both the protease and scaffolding activities of MALT1 to treat ABC-DLBCL.
Our previous work suggested that an antibody-epitope-like interface governs the interaction between BCL10 and MALT1, so that a therapeutic opportunity exists for developing a small molecule inhibitor of the interaction to terminate inappropriate CBM activity. Using co-immunoprecipitation studies, a mammalian two-hybrid system, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR), we confirmed that BCL10 residues 107-119 and the tandem Ig-like domains of MALT1 are critical for this interaction. We then performed a structure-guided in silico screen of 3 million compounds, based on a computational model of the BCL10-MALT1 interaction interface, to identify compounds with potential for disrupting the interaction.
Compound 1 from the initial screening hits showed dose-responsive inhibition of BCL10-MALT1 interaction in both SPR and ELISA-based assays. Functionally, Compound 1 inhibits both MALT1 protease and scaffolding activities in Jurkat T cells, as demonstrated by its inhibition of CD3/CD28-induced RelB and N4BP1 cleavage, and inhibition of IKK phosphorylation, respectively. Compound 1 also blocks IL-2 transcription and IL-2 secretion by PMA/ionomycin-treated Jurkat T cells, as well as constitutive CBM-dependent secretion of IL-6 and IL-10 by ABC-DLBCL cells. Accordingly, Compound 1 selectively suppresses the growth of ABC-DLBCL cell lines, but does not affect the growth of MALT1-independent GCB-DLBCL cell lines.
In conclusion, we have identified an early-stage small molecule compound that inhibits the BCL10-MALT1 interaction, MALT1 protease and scaffolding activities, downstream CBM-dependent signaling, and ABC-DLBCL cell growth. Structure-guided modification of this lead compound is underway to further develop a new class of protein-protein interaction inhibitors that could provide more efficacious blockade of MALT1, while offering protection from undesirable autoimmune side effects in the treatment of this aggressive form of lymphoma.

3:15 PM – 3:20 PM
– Discussion

3:20 PM – 3:30 PM
– Closing RemarksJohn S. Lazo. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

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DISCUSSION – Genomics-driven personalized medicine for Pancreatic Cancer

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

[bold face added, ALA]

Integrated Patient-Derived Models Delineate Individualized Therapeutic Vulnerabilities of Pancreatic Cancer –>>> Personalized Tumor Models Could Help Identify Combination Therapies for Hard-to-Treat Cancers


Original article

Pancreatic Cancer – Genomics-driven personalized medicine


PDAC has a particularly poor prognosis, and even with new targeted therapies and chemotherapy, the survival is poor. Here, we show that patient-derived models can be developed and used to investigate therapeutic sensitivities determined by genetic features of the disease and to identify empirical therapeutic vulnerabilities. These data reveal several key points that are of prime relevance to pancreatic cancer and tumor biology in general.

The Challenges of Using Genetic Analysis to Inform Treatment in PDAC

Precision oncology is dependent on the existence of known vulnerabilities encoded by high-potency genetic events and drugs capable of exploiting these vulnerabilities. At present, the repertoire of actionable genetic events in PDAC is limited.

  • Rare BRAF V600E mutations are identified in PDAC and could represent the basis for targeted inhibition, as our group and others have previously published (Collisson et al., 2012; Witkiewicz et al., 2015).


  • germline BRCA deficiency is the basis for ongoing poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor clinical trials (Lowery et al., 2011).

As shown here, out of 28 cases, only one genetic event was identified that yielded sensitivity to a therapeutic strategy. In this case, existence of the matched model allowed us to confirm the biological relevance of the

  • STAG2 mutation by showing sensitivity of the model to a DNA cross-linking agent.

Therefore, annotated patient-derived models provide a substrate upon which to functionally dissect the significance of novel and potentially actionable genetic events that occur within a tumor.

Another challenge of genomics-driven personalized medicine is

  • assessing the effect of specific molecular aberrations on therapeutic response in the context of complex genetic changes present in individual tumors.
  • KRAS has been proposed to modify therapeutic dependency to EZH2 inhibitors (Kim et al., 2015), and in the models tested, responses to this class of drugs were not uniformly present in cases harboring mutations in chromatin-remodeling genes.

This finding suggests that, although tumors acquire genetic alterations in specific genes, the implicated pathway may not be functionally inactive or therapeutically actionable. Therefore, annotated patient derived models provide a unique test bed for interrogating specific therapeutic dependencies in a genetically tractable system.

Empirical Definition of Therapeutic Sensitivities and Clinical Relevance

Cell lines offer the advantage of the ability to conduct high throughput approaches to interrogate many therapeutic agents. A large number of failed clinical trials have demonstrated the difficulty in treating PDAC. Based on the data herein, the paucity of clinical success is, most probably, due to the diverse therapeutic sensitivity of individual PDAC cases, suggesting that, with an unselected patient population, it will be veritably impossible to demonstrate clinical benefit. Additionally,

  •  very few models exhibited an exceptional response to single agents across the breadth of a library encompassing 305 agents.
  • We could identify only one tumor that was particularly sensitive to MEK inhibition and another model that was sensitive to
  • EGFR and
  • tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

In contrast to the limited activity of single agents, combination screens yielded responses at low-dose concentrations in the majority of models. Specific combinations were effective across several models, indicating that, by potentially screening more models, therapeutic sensitivity clades of PDAC will emerge. In the pharmacological screens performed in this study,

  • MEK inhibition, coupled with MTOR, docetaxel, or tyrosine kinase inhibitors, was effective in _30% of models tested.
  • Resistance to MEK inhibitors occurs through several mechanisms, including
  • Upregulation of oncogenic bypass signaling pathways such as AKT, tyrosine kinase, or MTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) signaling.

In the clinic, the MEK and MTOR inhibitors (e.g., NCT02583542) are being tested. An intriguing finding from the drug screen was

  • sensitivity of a subset of models to combined MEK and docetaxel inhibition. This combination has been observed to synergistically enhance apoptosis and inhibit tumor growth in human xenograft tumor models (Balko et al., 2012; McDaid et al., 2005) and is currently being tested in a phase III study in patients with KRAS-mutated, advanced non-small-cell lung adenocarcinoma (Ja¨ nne et al., 2016).

Interestingly, in the models tested herein, there was limited sensitivity imparted through

  •  the combination of gemcitabine and MEK inhibition.

This potentially explains why the combination of MEK inhibitor and gemcitabine tested in the clinic did not show improved efficacy over gemcitabine alone (Infante et al., 2014).

Another promising strategy that emerged from this study involves using

  • CHK or BCL2 inhibitors as agents that drive enhanced sensitivity to chemotherapy.

Together, the data suggest that the majority of PDAC tumors have intrinsic therapeutic sensitivities, but the challenge is to prospectively identify effective treatment.

Patient-Derived Model-Based Approach to Precision Medicine

This study supports a path for guiding patient treatment based on the integration of genetic and empirically determined sensitivities of the patient’s tumor (Figure S7). In reference to defined genetic susceptibilities, the models provide a means to interrogate the voracity of specific drug targets. Parallel unbiased screening enables the discovery of sensitivities that could be exploited in the clinic. The model-guided treatment must be optimized, allowing for the generation of data in a time frame compatible with clinical decision making and appropriate validation.

In the present study, the majority of models were developed, cell lines were drug screened, and select hits were validated in PDX models within a 10- to 12-month window (Figure S7). This chronology would allow time to inform frontline therapy for recurrent disease for most patients who were surgically resected and treated with a standard of care where the median time to recurrence is approximately 14 months (Saif, 2013).

Although most models were generated from surgically resected specimens, two of the models (EMC3226 and EMC62) were established from primary tumor biopsies, indicating that this approach could be used with only a limited amount of tumor tissue available.

In the context of inoperable pancreatic cancer, application of data from a cell-line screen without in vivo validation in PDX would permit the generation of sensitivity data in the time frame compatible with treatment.

[We] acknowledge that model-guided treatment is also not without significant logistical hurdles, including the availability of drugs for patient treatment, clinically relevant time frames, patient-performance status, toxicity of combination regiments, and quality metrics related to model development and therapeutic response evaluation.

Additionally, it will be very important to monitor ex vivo genetic and phenotypic divergence with passage and try to understand the features of tumor heterogeneity that could undermine the efficacy of using models to direct treatment. As shown here, drug sensitivities remained stable with passage in cell culture and, importantly, were confirmed in PDX models, suggesting that the dominant genetic drivers and related therapeutic sensitivities are conserved.

In spite of these challenges, progressively more effort is going into the development of patient-derived models for guidance of disease treatment (Aparicio et al., 2015; Boj et al., 2015; Crystal et al., 2014; van de Wetering et al., 2015).

Several ongoing trials use PDX models to direct a limited repertoire of agents (e.g., NCT02312245, NCT02720796, and ERCAVATAR2015). Given the experience here, PDAC cell lines would provide the opportunity to rapidly interrogate a larger portfolio of combinations that could be used to guide patient care and provide a novel approach to precision medicine.

Validation of this approach would require the establishment of challenging multi-arm or N-of-1 clinical trials. However, considering the dire outcome for PDAC patients and the long-lasting difficulty in developing effective treatments, this non-canonical approach might be particularly impactful in pancreatic cancer.


Witkiewicz et al., 2016, Cell Reports 16, 1–15

August 16, 2016 ª 2016 The Author(s).


Agnieszka K. WitkiewiczPress enter key for correspondence information
Uthra Balaji
Cody Eslinger
Elizabeth McMillan
William Conway
Bruce Posner
Gordon B. Mills
Eileen M. O’Reilly
Erik S. KnudsencorrespondencePress enter key for correspondence information
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof
Open Access

Resource Integrated Patient-Derived Models Delineate Individualized Therapeutic Vulnerabilities of Pancreatic Cancer


awitki@email.arizona.edu (A.K.W.),

eknudsen@email.arizona.edu (E.S.K.)

Accession Numbers: GSE84023

Other related articles on this topic published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

Pancreatic Cancer: Articles of Note @PharmaceuticalIntelligence.com

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


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