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Transl Oncol. 2019 Dec 19;13(2):201-211. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2019.10.006. [Epub ahead of print]

RUNX2/CBFB modulates the response to MEK inhibitors through activation of receptor tyrosine kinases in KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer.

Author information

1
Division of Molecular Carcinogenesis, Oncode Institute, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, Amsterdam, 1066, CX, the Netherlands.
2
Division of Molecular Carcinogenesis, Oncode Institute, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, Amsterdam, 1066, CX, the Netherlands. Electronic address: r.bernards@nki.nl.

Abstract

Intrinsic and acquired resistances are major hurdles preventing the effective use of MEK inhibitors for treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC). Some 35-45% of colorectal cancers are KRAS-mutant and their treatment remains challenging as these cancers are refractory to MEK inhibitor treatment, because of feedback activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). We reported previously that loss of ERN1 sensitizes a subset of KRAS-mutant colon cancer cells to MEK inhibition. Here we show that the loss of RUNX2 or its cofactor CBFB can confer MEK inhibitor resistance in CRC cells. Mechanistically, we find that cells with genetically ablated RUNX2 or CBFB activate multiple RTKs, which coincides with high SHP2 phosphatase activity, a phosphatase that relays signals from the cell membrane to downstream pathways governing growth and proliferation. Moreover, we show that high activity of SHP2 is causal to loss of RUNX2-induced MEK inhibitor resistance, as a small molecule SHP2 inhibitor reinstates sensitivity to MEK inhibitor in RUNX2 knockout cells. Our results reveal an unexpected role for loss of RUNX2/CBFB in regulating RTK activity in colon cancer, resulting in reduced sensitivity to MEK inhibitors.

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