Targeting Myc-driven stress vulnerability in mutant KRAS colorectal cancer.

Mutant KRAS is a key driver in colorectal cancer (CRC) and promotes Myc translation and Myc-dependent stress adaptation and proliferation. Here, we report that the combination of two FDA-approved drugs Bortezomib and Everolimus (RAD001) (BR) is highly efficacious against mutant KRAS CRC cells. Mechanistically, the combination, not single agent, rapidly depletes Myc protein, not mRNA, and leads to GCN2- and p-eIF2α-dependent cell death through the activation of extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways. Cell death is selectively induced in mutant KRAS CRC cells with elevated basal Myc and p-eIF2α and is characterized by CHOP induction and transcriptional signatures in proteotoxicity, oxidative stress, metabolic inhibition, and immune activation. BR-induced p-GCN2/p-eIF2α elevation and cell death are strongly attenuated by MYC knockdown and enhanced by MYC overexpression. The BR combination is efficacious against mutant KRAS patient derived organoids (PDO) and xenografts (PDX) by inducing p-eIF2α/CHOP and cell death. Interestingly, an elevated four-gene (DDIT3, GADD45B, CRYBA4 and HSPA1L) stress signature is linked to shortened overall survival in CRC patients. These data support that Myc-dependent stress adaptation drives the progression of mutant KRAS CRC and serves as a therapeutic vulnerability, which can be targeted using dual translational inhibitors.

Chen L, Kuang C, Leibowitz BJ, Lu X, Peng Y, Ruan H, Schoen RE, Shen L, Yu J, Zhang L


Mol Biomed, 2022, 3 (1)

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