Purpose: The heterodimeric transcription factor HIF-2 is arguably the most important driver of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Although considered undruggable, structural analyses at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW, Dallas, TX) identified a vulnerability in the a subunit, which heterodimerizes with HIF1b, ultimately leading to the development of PT2385, a first-in-class inhibitor. PT2385 was safe and active in a first-in-human phase I clinical trial of patients with extensively pretreated ccRCC at UTSW and elsewhere. There were no dose-limiting toxicities, and disease control ≥4 months was achieved in 42% of patients. Patients and Methods: We conducted a prospective companion substudy involving a subset of patients enrolled in the phase I clinical trial at UTSW (n ¼ 10), who were treated at the phase II dose or above, involving multiparametric MRI, blood draws, and serial biopsies for biochemical, whole exome, and RNA-sequencing studies. Results: PT2385 inhibited HIF-2 in nontumor tissues, as determined by a reduction in erythropoietin levels (a pharmacodynamic marker), in all but one patient, who had the lowest drug concentrations. PT2385 dissociated HIF-2 complexes in ccRCC metastases, and inhibited HIF-2 target gene expression. In contrast, HIF-1 complexes were unaffected. Prolonged PT2385 treatment resulted in the acquisition of resistance, and we identified a gatekeeper mutation (G323E) in HIF2a, which interferes with drug binding and precluded HIF-2 complex dissociation. In addition, we identified an acquired TP53 mutation elsewhere, suggesting a possible alternate mechanism of resistance. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate a core dependency on HIF-2 in metastatic ccRCC and establish PT2385 as a highly specific HIF-2 inhibitor in humans. New approaches will be required to target mutant HIF-2 beyond PT2385 or the closely related PT2977 (MK-6482).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research