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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Oct;94(10):4107-12. doi: 10.1210/jc.2009-0662. Epub 2009 Sep 1.

Dual inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase and mammalian target of rapamycin in differentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer.

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  • 1Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21231-1000, USA.



Differentiated thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer tumors frequently have activation of the ras/raf /MAPK kinase (MEK)/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI-3K)/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways.


The objective of the study was to investigate the efficacy of MEK and mTOR inhibitors in preclinical thyroid cancer treatment models with defined mutation status.


The MEK inhibitor AZD6244 (ARRY-142886) and mTOR inhibitor rapamycin were tested separately and in combination in 10 differentiated thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer cell lines and in a xenograft model for evidence of pathway inhibition, growth inhibition, apoptosis, and long-range adaptation and resistance.


Seven of 10 tested lines had evidence of significant basal activity of the PI-3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, with elevated phosphorylated AKT and phosphorylated p70 S6 kinase. Activation of ras/RAF/MEK/ERK was equally common in this panel. All 10 lines exhibited better than 60% growth inhibition with combined MEK and mTOR inhibition, including lines with BRAF, Ret-PTC, ras, and PTEN mutations. Rapamycin or AZD6244 alone achieved this threshold in six and two lines, respectively. Dual-pathway inhibition in the Ret-PTC mutant cell line TPC1 caused an intense G(1) arrest in cell culture and reversible cytostatic inhibition in a xenograft model. We did not observe significant feedback up-regulation of AKT activation in either acute or prolonged exposures.


These preclinical results support the inclusion of thyroid cancer patients in early-phase clinical trials combining RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR pathway inhibition.

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