AZD6244 is a small molecule inhibitor of the MEK (MAP/ERK kinase) pathway currently in clinical trials. However, the mechanisms mediating intrinsic resistance to MEK inhibition are not fully characterized. To define molecular mechanisms of MEK inhibitor resistance, we analyzed responses of 38 lung cancer cell lines following AZD6244 treatment and their genome-wide gene expression profiles and identified a panel of genes correlated with sensitivity or resistance to AZD6244 treatment. In particular, ingenuity pathway analysis revealed that activation of the STAT3 pathway was associated with MEK inhibitor resistance. Inhibition of this pathway by JSI-124, a STAT3-specificsmallmolecule inhibitor, or with STAT3-specific siRNAsensitized lung cancer cells toAZD6244 and induced apoptosis. Moreover, combining a STAT3 inhibitor with AZD6244 induced expression of BIM and PARP cleavage, whereas activation of the STAT3 pathway inhibited BIM expression and elicited resistance to MEK inhibitors. We found that the STAT3-regulatedmicroRNAmiR-17 played a critical role inMEK inhibitor resistance, such that miR-17 inhibition sensitized resistant cells to AZD6244 by inducing BIM and PARP cleavage. Together, these results indicated that STAT3-mediated overexpression of miR-17 blocked BIM expression and caused resistance to AZD6244. Our findings suggest novel approaches to overcome resistance toMEK inhibitors by combining AZD6244 with STAT3 or miR-17 inhibitors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research