A screen for combination therapies in BRAF/NRAS wild type melanoma identifies nilotinib plus MEK inhibitor as a synergistic combination


Despite recent therapeutic advances in the management of BRAFV600-mutant melanoma, there is still a compelling need for more effective treatments for patients who developed BRAF/NRAS wild type disease. Since the activity of single targeted agents is limited by innate and acquired resistance, we performed a high-throughput drug screen using 180 drug combinations to generate over 18,000 viability curves, with the aim of identifying agents that synergise to kill BRAF/NRAS wild type melanoma cells. From this screen we observed strong synergy between the tyrosine kinase inhibitor nilotinib and MEK inhibitors and validated this combination in an independent cell line collection. We found that AXL expression was associated with synergy to the nilotinib/MEK inhibitor combination, and that both drugs work in concert to suppress pERK. This finding was supported by genome-wide CRISPR screening which revealed that resistance mechanisms converge on regulators of the MAPK pathway. Finally, we validated the synergy of nilotinib/trametinib combination in vivo using patient-derived xenografts. Our results indicate that a nilotinib/MEK inhibitor combination may represent an effective therapy in BRAF/NRAS wild type melanoma patients.

bioRxiv 2017; DOI:10.1101/195354