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Nat Chem Biol. 2011 Sep 25;7(11):787-93. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.695.

A chemical-genetic screen reveals a mechanism of resistance to PI3K inhibitors in cancer.

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CeMM-Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria.


Linking the molecular aberrations of cancer to drug responses could guide treatment choice and identify new therapeutic applications. However, there has been no systematic approach for analyzing gene-drug interactions in human cells. Here we establish a multiplexed assay to study the cellular fitness of a panel of engineered isogenic cancer cells in response to a collection of drugs, enabling the systematic analysis of thousands of gene-drug interactions. Applying this approach to breast cancer revealed various synthetic-lethal interactions and drug-resistance mechanisms, some of which were known, thereby validating the method. NOTCH pathway activation, which occurs frequently in breast cancer, unexpectedly conferred resistance to phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors, which are currently undergoing clinical trials in breast cancer patients. NOTCH1 and downstream induction of c-MYC over-rode the dependency of cells on the PI3K-mTOR pathway for proliferation. These data reveal a new mechanism of resistance to PI3K inhibitors with direct clinical implications.

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