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Sci Transl Med. 2012 May 30;4(136):136ra70. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003513.

Kinase-impaired BRAF mutations in lung cancer confer sensitivity to dasatinib.

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  • 1Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


During a clinical trial of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor dasatinib for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), one patient responded dramatically and remains cancer-free 4 years later. A comprehensive analysis of his tumor revealed a previously undescribed, kinase-inactivating BRAF mutation ((Y472C)BRAF); no inactivating BRAF mutations were found in the nonresponding tumors taken from other patients. Cells transfected with (Y472C)BRAF exhibited CRAF, MEK (mitogen-activated or extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase kinase), and ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) activation-characteristics identical to signaling changes that occur with previously known kinase-inactivating BRAF mutants. Dasatinib selectively induced senescence in NSCLC cells with inactivating BRAF mutations. Transfection of other NSCLC cells with these BRAF mutations also increased these cells' dasatinib sensitivity, whereas transfection with an activating BRAF mutation led to their increased dasatinib resistance. The sensitivity induced by (Y472C)BRAF was reversed by the introduction of a BRAF mutation that impairs RAF dimerization. Dasatinib inhibited CRAF modestly, but concurrently induced RAF dimerization, resulting in ERK activation in NSCLC cells with kinase-inactivating BRAF mutations. The sensitivity of NSCLC with kinase-impaired BRAF to dasatinib suggested synthetic lethality of BRAF and an unknown dasatinib target. Inhibiting BRAF in NSCLC cells expressing wild-type BRAF likewise enhanced these cells' dasatinib sensitivity. Thus, the patient's BRAF mutation was likely responsible for his tumor's marked response to dasatinib, suggesting that tumors bearing kinase-impaired BRAF mutations may be exquisitely sensitive to dasatinib. Moreover, the potential synthetic lethality of combination therapy including dasatinib and BRAF inhibitors may lead to additional therapeutic options against cancers with wild-type BRAF.

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