PDGFRα up-regulation mediated by sonic hedgehog pathway activation leads to BRAF inhibitor resistance in melanoma cells with BRAF mutation

Francesco Sabbatino, Yangyang Wang, Xinhui Wang, Keith T Flaherty, Ling Yu, David Pepin, Giosue Scognamiglio, Stefano Pepe, John M Kirkwood, Zachary A Cooper, Dennie T Frederick, Jennifer A Wargo, Soldano Ferrone, Cristina R Ferrone
Oncotarget 2014 April 15, 5 (7): 1926-41
Control of BRAF(V600E) metastatic melanoma by BRAF inhibitor (BRAF-I) is limited by intrinsic and acquired resistance. Growth factor receptor up-regulation is among the mechanisms underlying BRAF-I resistance of melanoma cells. Here we demonstrate for the first time that PDGFRα up-regulation causes BRAF-I resistance. PDGFRα inhibition by PDGFRα-specific short hairpin (sh)RNA and by PDGFRα inhibitors restores and increases melanoma cells' sensitivity to BRAF-I in vitro and in vivo. This effect reflects the inhibition of ERK and AKT activation which is associated with BRAF-I resistance of melanoma cells. PDGFRα up-regulation is mediated by Sonic Hedgehog Homolog (Shh) pathway activation which is induced by BRAF-I treatment. Similarly to PDGFRα inhibition, Shh inhibition by LDE225 restores and increases melanoma cells' sensitivity to BRAF-I. These effects are mediated by PDGFRα down-regulation and by ERK and AKT inhibition. The clinical relevance of these data is indicated by the association of PDGFRα up-regulation in melanoma matched biopsies of BRAF-I +/- MEK inhibitor treated patients with shorter time to disease progression and less tumor regression. These findings suggest that monitoring patients for early PDGFRα up-regulation will facilitate the identification of those who may benefit from the treatment with BRAF-I in combination with clinically approved PDGFRα or Shh inhibitors.

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