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Combined therapy of dabrafenib and an anti-HER2 antibody-drug conjugate for advanced BRAF-mutant melanoma.

BACKGROUND: Melanoma is the most lethal skin cancer characterized by its high metastatic potential. In the past decade, targeted and immunotherapy have brought revolutionary survival benefits to patients with advanced and metastatic melanoma, but these treatment responses are also heterogeneous and/or do not achieve durable responses. Therefore, novel therapeutic strategies for improving outcomes remain an unmet clinical need. The aim of this study was to evaluate the therapeutic potential and underlying molecular mechanisms of RC48, a novel HER2-target antibody drug conjugate, either alone or in combination with dabrafenib, a V600-mutant BRAF inhibitor, for the treatment of advanced BRAF-mutant cutaneous melanoma.

METHODS: We evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of RC48, alone or in combination with dabrafenib, in BRAF-mutant cutaneous melanoma cell lines and cell-derived xenograft (CDX) models. We also conducted signaling pathways analysis and global mRNA sequencing to explore mechanisms underlying the synergistic effect of the combination therapy.

RESULTS: Our results revealed the expression of membrane-localized HER2 in melanoma cells. RC48 effectively targeted and inhibited the growth of HER2-positive human melanoma cell lines and corresponding CDX models. When used RC48 and dabrafenib synergically induced tumor regression together in human BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines and CDX models. Mechanically, our results demonstrated that the combination therapy induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest while suppressing cell motility in vitro. Furthermore, global RNA sequencing analysis demonstrated that the combination treatment led to the downregulation of several key signaling pathways, including the PI3K-AKT pathway, MAPK pathway, AMPK pathway, and FOXO pathway.

CONCLUSION: These findings establish a preclinical foundation for the combined use of an anti-HER2 drug conjugate and a BRAF inhibitor in the treatment of BRAF-mutant cutaneous melanoma.

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