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Clin Cancer Res. 2019 Apr 1;25(7):2305-2313. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-18-2572. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

Dopamine Receptor D5 is a Modulator of Tumor Response to Dopamine Receptor D2 Antagonism.

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Oncoceutics, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.
Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
HistoTox Labs, Inc., Boulder, Colorado.
Eurofins DiscoverX Corporation, Fremont, California.
Neuro-Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Sanford Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, California.
Massachusettes General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Oncoceutics, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



Dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) is a G protein-coupled receptor antagonized by ONC201, an anticancer small molecule in clinical trials for high-grade gliomas and other malignancies. DRD5 is a dopamine receptor family member that opposes DRD2 signaling. We investigated the expression of these dopamine receptors in cancer and their influence on tumor cell sensitivity to ONC201.


The Cancer Genome Atlas was used to determine DRD2/DRD5 expression broadly across human cancers. Cell viability assays were performed with ONC201 in >1,000 Genomic of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer and NCI60 cell lines. IHC staining of DRD2/DRD5 was performed on tissue microarrays and archival tumor tissues of glioblastoma patients treated with ONC201. Whole exome sequencing was performed in RKO cells with and without acquired ONC201 resistance. Wild-type and mutant DRD5 constructs were generated for overexpression studies.


DRD2 overexpression broadly occurs across tumor types and is associated with a poor prognosis. Whole exome sequencing of cancer cells with acquired resistance to ONC201 revealed a de novo Q366R mutation in the DRD5 gene. Expression of Q366R DRD5 was sufficient to induce tumor cell apoptosis, consistent with a gain-of-function. DRD5 overexpression in glioblastoma cells enhanced DRD2/DRD5 heterodimers and DRD5 expression was inversely correlated with innate tumor cell sensitivity to ONC201. Investigation of archival tumor samples from patients with recurrent glioblastoma treated with ONC201 revealed that low DRD5 expression was associated with relatively superior clinical outcomes.


These results implicate DRD5 as a negative regulator of DRD2 signaling and tumor sensitivity to ONC201 DRD2 antagonism.

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