Antitumor activity of BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib in preclinical models of BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer

Hong Yang, Brian Higgins, Kenneth Kolinsky, Kathryn Packman, William D Bradley, Richard J Lee, Kathleen Schostack, Mary Ellen Simcox, Scott Kopetz, David Heimbrook, Brian Lestini, Gideon Bollag, Fei Su
Cancer Research 2012 February 1, 72 (3): 779-89
The protein kinase BRAF is a key component of the RAS-RAF signaling pathway which plays an important role in regulating cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Mutations in BRAF at codon 600 promote catalytic activity and are associated with 8% of all human (solid) tumors, including 8% to 10% of colorectal cancers (CRC). Here, we report the preclinical characterization of vemurafenib (RG7204; PLX4032; RO5185426), a first-in-class, specific small molecule inhibitor of BRAF(V600E) in BRAF-mutated CRC cell lines and tumor xenograft models. As a single agent, vemurafenib shows dose-dependent inhibition of ERK and MEK phosphorylation, thereby arresting cell proliferation in BRAF(V600)-expressing cell lines and inhibiting tumor growth in BRAF(V600E) bearing xenograft models. Because vemurafenib has shown limited single-agent clinical activity in BRAF(V600E)-mutant metastatic CRC, we therefore explored a range of combination therapies, with both standard agents and targeted inhibitors in preclinical xenograft models. In a BRAF-mutant CRC xenograft model with de novo resistance to vemurafenib (RKO), tumor growth inhibition by vemurafenib was enhanced by combining with an AKT inhibitor (MK-2206). The addition of vemurafenib to capecitabine and/or bevacizumab, cetuximab and/or irinotecan, or erlotinib resulted in increased antitumor activity and improved survival in xenograft models. Together, our findings suggest that the administration of vemurafenib in combination with standard-of-care or novel targeted therapies may lead to enhanced and sustained clinical antitumor efficacy in CRCs harboring the BRAF(V600E) mutation.

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