Background: Oncogenic mutations in BRAF occur in 8% of patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) and have been shown to correlate with poor prognosis. In contrast to BRAF mutant (MT) melanoma, where the BRAF inhibitor Vemurafenib (PLX4032) has shown significant increases in response rates and overall survival, only minor responses to Vemurafenib treatment have been reported in BRAFMT CRC. Clear understanding of the vulnerabilities of BRAFMT CRC is important, and identification of druggable targets uniquely required by BRAFMT CRC tumours has the potential to fill a gap in the therapeutic armamentarium of advanced CRC. The aim of this study was to identify novel resistance mechanisms to MEK inhibition in BRAFMT CRC. Methods: Paired BRAFMT/WT RKO and VACO432 CRC cells and non-isogenic BRAFMT LIM2405, WiDR, HT-29 and COLO205 CRC cells were used. Changes in protein expression/activity were assessed by Western Blotting. Interactions between MEK1/2 and JAK1/2 or c-MET inhibition were assessed using the MTT cell viability assays and Flow Cytometry. Apoptosis was measured using Western Blotting for PARP, cleaved caspase 3, 8 and 9, and caspase 3/7 and 8 activity assays. Results: Treatment with MEK1/2 inhibitors AZD6244, trametinib, UO126 and PD98059 resulted in acute increases in STAT3 activity in the BRAFMT RKO and VACO432 cells but not in their BRAFWT clones and this was associated with increases in JAK2 activity. Inhibition of JAK/STAT3 activation using gene specific siRNA or small molecule inhibitors TG101348 or AZD1480, abrogated this survival response and resulted in synergy and significant increases in cell death when combined with MEK1/2 inhibitors AZD6244 or trametinib in BRAFMT CRC cells. The RTK c-MET is activated upstream of STAT3 following MEK1/2 inhibition. Inhibition of c-MET and MEK1/2, using pharmacological inhibitors (crizotinib and AZD6244), results in synergy and increased cell death in BRAFMT CRC cells. Conclusions: We have identified JAK/STAT3 activation as an important escape mechanism for BRAFMT CRC following MEK1/2 inhibition in vitro. Combinations of JAK/MEKi or MET/MEKi can be a potential novel treatment strategy for poor prognostic BRAFMT advanced CRC patients.
Celtikci, B., Carson, R., Johnston, P., & Van Schaeybroeck, S. (2014). The role of JAK1/2-STAT3 as acute resistance mechanism to MEK inhibition in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer cell lines. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 32((suppl; abstr 3594)). http://meetinglibrary.asco.org/content/131690-144