Abstract 4876: A systems pharmacology approach to discover synergistic targeted therapy combinations

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Cancer Research


washington; isb


The discovery of oncogenic signal transduction in cancer has enabled the development and clinical use of dozens of kinase-directed targeted therapies, but patient response is often transient and resistance invariably develops. In the setting of BRAF-mutant melanoma, for instance, a majority of patients relapse within one year of initiating targeted therapy. Combination therapies blocking compensatory signaling pathways provide a strategy for boosting treatment efficacy and delaying resistance. To find synergistic kinase inhibitor combinations, we used a multimodal systems pharmacology approach to quantify the early adaptive signaling and gene regulatory dynamics in patient-derived BRAFV600E-mutant melanoma cells under oncogene inhibition. Cells were treated with vemurafenib or vehicle and sampled longitudinally at timepoints spanning minutes to days. To measure signaling dynamics, thousands of protein phosphorylation sites covering commonly altered signaling axes in cancer were motif-enriched by immunoprecipitation, barcoded with isobaric tandem mass tags (TMT), and quantified by high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS). The resulting time-resolved phosphoproteomics data showed rapid (<15 minutes) and potent (>8-fold) downregulation of ERK1/2, confirming strong BRAF inhibition. Statistical integration of signaling measurements with time-series RNA-seq data collected at the same timepoints enabled reconstruction of multi-scale regulatory networks governing the adaptive response to oncogene inhibition. In particular, we observed early induction of SRC-family kinase (SFK) signaling and a broad cytoskeletal signaling module, implicating a compensatory prosurvival signaling program. The induction intensified over the 3-day treatment window and was fully reversed following a 6-day drug holiday, suggesting a reversible nature of drug adaptation. Immunoblotting confirmed sustained loss of ERK1/2 activity and concomitant elevated SFK phosphorylation following drug treatment. Accumulation of reactive oxygen species, a known activator of SFKs, strongly correlated with SFK activity, and both were ablated following treatment with the antioxidant precursor N-acetylcysteine. This adaptive response predicted a significant degree of synergy between vemurafenib and the pan-SFK inhibitor dasatinib, which was validated in a panel of patient-derived melanoma cell lines and in melanoma xenograft mouse models. Targeted MS of phospho-ERK1/2 and canonical SFK substrates, including CTTN, PXN, and PAG1, validated the mechanism of action of this combination. Complementary data from patient-derived non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells under tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment demonstrates the generality of our integrative approach, and supports the notion that SFK activation may be a hallmark response to oncogenic RTK-RAS-ERK pathway inhibition.

Clinical Institute



Institute for Systems Biology