Targeting Transcriptional Regulation with a CDK9 Inhibitor Suppresses Growth of Endocrine- and Palbociclib-Resistant ER+ Breast Cancers.
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UNLABELLED: The combination of endocrine therapy and CDK4/6 inhibitors such as palbociclib is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, yet many patients relapse with therapy-resistant disease. Determining the mechanisms underlying endocrine therapy resistance is limited by the lack of ability to fully recapitulate inter- and intratumor heterogeneity in vitro and of availability of tumor samples from women with disease progression or relapse. In this study, multiple cell line models of resistant disease were used for both two-dimensional (2D)- and three-dimensional (3D)-based inhibitor screening. The screens confirmed the previously reported role of pro-proliferative pathways, such as PI3K-AKT-mTOR, in endocrine therapy resistance and additionally identified the transcription-associated cyclin-dependent kinase CDK9 as a common hit in ER+ cell lines and patient-derived organoids modeling endocrine therapy-resistant disease in both the palbociclib-sensitive and palbociclib-resistant settings. The CDK9 inhibitor, AZD4573, currently in clinical trials for hematologic malignancies, acted synergistically with palbociclib in these ER+in vitro 2D and 3D models. In addition, in two independent endocrine- and palbociclib-resistance patient-derived xenografts, treatment with AZD4573 in combination with palbociclib and fulvestrant resulted in tumor regression. Tumor transcriptional profiling identified a set of transcriptional and cell-cycle regulators differentially downregulated only in combination-treated tumors. Together, these findings identify a clinically tractable combination strategy for overcoming resistance to endocrine therapy and CDK4/6 inhibitors in breast cancer and provide insight into the potential mechanism of drug efficacy in targeting treatment-resistant disease. SIGNIFICANCE: Targeting transcription-associated CDK9 synergizes with CDK4/6 inhibitor to drive tumor regression in multiple models of endocrine- and palbociclib-resistant ER+ breast cancer, which could address the challenge of overcoming resistance in patients.
Molecular Cell Biology
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Cancer Research, 2023,
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)