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Targeting endothelin receptor signalling overcomes heterogeneity driven therapy failure


Abstract

Approaches to prolong responses to BRAF targeting drugs in melanoma patients are challenged by phenotype heterogeneity. Melanomas of a "MITF-high" phenotype usually respond well to BRAF inhibitor therapy, but these melanomas also contain subpopulations of the de novo resistance "AXL-high" phenotype. > 50% of melanomas progress with enriched "AXL-high" populations, and because AXL is linked to de-differentiation and invasiveness avoiding an "AXL-high relapse" is desirable. We discovered that phenotype heterogeneity is supported during the response phase of BRAF inhibitor therapy due to MITF-induced expression of endothelin 1 (EDN1). EDN1 expression is enhanced in tumours of patients on treatment and confers drug resistance through ERK re-activation in a paracrine manner. Most importantly, EDN1 not only supports MITF-high populations through the endothelin receptor B (EDNRB), but also AXL-high populations through EDNRA, making it a master regulator of phenotype heterogeneity. Endothelin receptor antagonists suppress AXL-high-expressing cells and sensitize to BRAF inhibition, suggesting that targeting EDN1 signalling could improve BRAF inhibitor responses without selecting for AXL-high cells.

Abstract

Approaches to prolong responses to BRAF targeting drugs in melanoma patients are challenged by phenotype heterogeneity. Melanomas of a "MITF-high" phenotype usually respond well to BRAF inhibitor therapy, but these melanomas also contain subpopulations of the de novo resistance "AXL-high" phenotype. > 50% of melanomas progress with enriched "AXL-high" populations, and because AXL is linked to de-differentiation and invasiveness avoiding an "AXL-high relapse" is desirable. We discovered that phenotype heterogeneity is supported during the response phase of BRAF inhibitor therapy due to MITF-induced expression of endothelin 1 (EDN1). EDN1 expression is enhanced in tumours of patients on treatment and confers drug resistance through ERK re-activation in a paracrine manner. Most importantly, EDN1 not only supports MITF-high populations through the endothelin receptor B (EDNRB), but also AXL-high populations through EDNRA, making it a master regulator of phenotype heterogeneity. Endothelin receptor antagonists suppress AXL-high-expressing cells and sensitize to BRAF inhibition, suggesting that targeting EDN1 signalling could improve BRAF inhibitor responses without selecting for AXL-high cells.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Dermatology Clinic
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:August 2017
Deposited On:30 Aug 2017 13:11
Last Modified:30 Aug 2017 13:12
Publisher:Wiley Open Access
ISSN:1757-4676
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.15252/emmm.201607156
PubMed ID:28606996

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Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)