Research Papers:

Chk1 inhibition as a novel therapeutic strategy in melanoma

Bor-Jang Hwang, Gautam Adhikary, Richard L. Eckert and A-Lien Lu _

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:30450-30464. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25765

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Bor-Jang Hwang1,2, Gautam Adhikary1, Richard L. Eckert1,2,3,4 and A-Lien Lu1,2

1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

2University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD, USA

3Department of Dermatology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

4Department of Reproductive Biology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

Correspondence to:

A-Lien Lu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: BRAF; Chk1; inhibitors; drug resistance; melanoma

Received: May 13, 2018     Accepted: June 28, 2018     Published: July 13, 2018


Melanoma patients respond poorly to chemotherapies because they acquire drug resistance. Therapies that can overcome the resistance to inhibitors of the mutated BRAF protein kinase in melanoma are urgently needed. Chk1 protein kinase is a central component of the DNA damage response and plays a crucial role in controlling cell cycle progression. Analyses indicate that low mRNA expression of Chk1 is significantly associated with good overall survival of melanoma patients. To evaluate the effectiveness of Chk1 inhibitors in melanoma therapy, we have generated BRAF inhibitor (PLX4032 or vemurafenib) resistant melanoma cell lines (A375-PLX-R and WM9-PLX-R) from A375 and WM9, respectively. We observe that AKT (protein kinase B) is constitutively activated in A375-PLX-R, but not in WM9-PLX-R cells, suggesting that these cells develop resistance to PLX4032 through different mechanisms. We show that a potent and specific inhibitor of Chk1 (PF477736) is effective in reducing cell viability and colony formation of PLX4032-resistant cells. Even more impressively, PF477736 triggers PLX4032-resistant melanoma cells to regain sensitivity to the PLX4032. Mouse xenograft studies show that treating A375-PLX-R derived tumors with combined PLX4032 and PF477736 significantly reduce tumor growth. Combined treatments with PLX4032 and PF477736 reduce the levels of total Chk1 protein and alter Chk1 phosphorylation at several sites in both PLX4032 sensitive and resistant melanoma cells. Combinatorial treatments with PLX4032 and PF477736 to melanoma cells substantially induce DNA damage and cell death. Our results suggest that Chk1 inhibitors may provide new therapy options for melanoma patients.

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