Research Papers:

Blocking downstream signaling pathways in the context of HDAC inhibition promotes apoptosis preferentially in cells harboring mutant Ras

Julian C. Bahr, Robert W. Robey, Victoria Luchenko, Agnes Basseville, Arup R. Chakraborty, Hanna Kozlowski, Gary T. Pauly, Paresma Patel, Joel P. Schneider, Michael M. Gottesman and Susan E. Bates _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:69804-69815. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12001

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Julian C. Bahr1,*, Robert W. Robey1,2,*, Victoria Luchenko1, Agnes Basseville1, Arup R. Chakraborty1, Hanna Kozlowski2, Gary T. Pauly3, Paresma Patel3, Joel P. Schneider3, Michael M. Gottesman2, Susan E. Bates1,4

1Developmental Therapeutics Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

2Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

3Chemical Biology Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, Frederick Cancer Research Center, Frederick, MD 21702, USA

4Columbia University Medical Center, Division of Hematology/Oncology, New York, NY 10032, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Susan E. Bates, email: [email protected]

Keywords: romidepsin, Ras mutation, apoptosis, MEK inhibitor, AKT inhibitor

Received: May 27, 2016     Accepted: September 01, 2016     Published: September 13, 2016


We previously demonstrated activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway in a series of romidepsin-selected T-cell lymphoma cell lines as a mechanism of resistance to the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDI), romidepsin. As Ras mutation leads to activation of both the MAPK and the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, we examined whether combining romidepsin with small molecule pathway inhibitors would lead to increased apoptosis in cancers harboring Ras mutations. We treated 18 Ras mutant or wild-type cell lines with romidepsin in the presence of a MEK inhibitor (PD-0325901) and/or an AKT inhibitor (MK-2206) and examined apoptosis by flow cytometry. A short-term treatment schedule of romidepsin (25 ng/ml for 6 h) was used to more closely model clinical administration. Romidepsin in combination with a MEK and an AKT inhibitor induced apoptosis preferentially in cells harboring mutant versus wild-type Ras (69.1% vs. 21.1%, p < 0.0001). Similar results were found in a subset of cell lines when belinostat was combined with the MEK and AKT inhibitors and when romidepsin was combined with the dual extracellular signaling-related kinase (ERK)/PI3K inhibitor, D-87503, which inhibited both the MAPK and PI3K pathways at 5–10 μM. The observed apoptosis was caspase-dependent and required Bak and Bax expression. Cells with wild-type or mutant Ras treated with romidepsin alone or in combination with the MEK inhibitor displayed increased expression of proapoptotic Bim. We thus conclude that cancers bearing Ras mutations, such as pancreatic cancer, can be targeted by the combination of an HDI and a dual inhibitor of the MAPK and PI3K pathways.

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