Genomic diversity among melanoma tumors limits durable control with conventional and targeted therapies. Nevertheless, pathologic activation of the ERK1/2 pathway is a linchpin tumorigenic mechanism associated with the majority of primary and recurrent disease. Therefore, we sought to identify therapeutic targets that are selectively required for tumorigenicity in the presence of pathologic ERK1/2 signaling. By integration of multigenome chemical and genetic screens, recurrent architectural variants in melanoma tumor genomes, and patient outcome data, we identified two mechanistic subtypes of BRAFV600 melanoma that inform new cancer cell biology and offer new therapeutic opportunities. Subtype membership defines sensitivity to clinical MEK inhibitors versus TBK1/IKBKε inhibitors. Importantly, subtype membership can be predicted using a robust quantitative five-feature genetic biomarker. This biomarker, and the mechanistic relationships linked to it, can identify a cohort of best responders to clinical MEK inhibitors and identify a cohort of TBK1/IKBKε inhibitor–sensitive disease among nonresponders to current targeted therapy. SIGNIFICANCE: This study identified two mechanistic subtypes of melanoma: (1) the best responders to clinical BRAF/MEK inhibitors (25%) and (2) nonresponders due to primary resistance mechanisms (9.9%). We identified robust biomarkers that can detect these subtypes in patient samples and predict clinical outcome. TBK1/IKBKε inhibitors were selectively toxic to drug-resistant melanoma.
ASJC Scopus subject areas