Title

CRISPR screens identify a novel combination treatment targeting BCL-X L and WNT signaling for KRAS/BRAF-mutated colorectal cancers

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2021

Publication Title

Oncogene

Keywords

JGM

JAX Source

Oncogene 2021 May; 40(18):3287-3302

Volume

40

Issue

18

First Page

3287

Last Page

3302

ISSN

1476-5594

PMID

33846570

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41388-021-01777-7

Abstract

Metastatic or recurrent colorectal cancer (CRC) patients require systemic chemotherapy, but the therapeutic options of targeted agents remain limited. CRC patients with KRAS or BRAF gene mutations exhibit a worse prognosis and are resistant to anti-EGFR treatment. Previous studies have shown that the expression of anti-apoptotic protein BCL-XL is increased in CRC patients with KRAS/BRAF mutations, suggesting BCL-XL as a therapeutic target for this subgroup. Here, we performed genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screens of cell lines with KRAS mutations to investigate the factors required for sensitivity to BCL-XL inhibitor ABT-263 using single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) that induce loss-of-function mutations. In the presence of ABT-263, sgRNAs targeting negative regulators of WNT signaling (resulting in WNT activation) were enriched, whereas sgRNAs targeting positive regulators of WNT signaling (resulting in WNT inhibition) were depleted in ABT-263-resistant cells. The activation of WNT signaling was highly associated with an increased expression ratio of anti- to pro-apoptotic BCL-2 family genes in CRC samples. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of WNT signaling using β-catenin short hairpin RNA or TNIK inhibitor NCB-0846, respectively, augmented ABT-263-induced cell death in KRAS/BRAF-mutated cells. Inhibition of WNT signaling resulted in transcriptional repression of the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family member, MCL1, via the functional inhibition of the β-catenin-containing complex at the MCL1 promoter. In addition, the combination of ABT-263 and NCB-0846 exhibited synergistic effects in in vivo patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models with KRAS mutations. Our data provide a novel targeted combination treatment strategy for the CRC patient subgroup with KRAS or BRAF mutations.

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