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Hirschi, Benjamin; Gallmeier, Eike; Ziesch, Andreas; Marschall, Maximilian; Kolligs, Frank T.: Genetic targeting of B-Raf(V600E) affects survival and proliferation and identifies selective agents against BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer cells. In: Molecular Cancer 2014, 13:122
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Abstract

Background: Colorectal cancers carrying the B-Raf V600E-mutation are associated with a poor prognosis. The purpose of this study was to identify B-Raf(V600E)-mediated traits of cancer cells in a genetic in vitro model and to assess the selective sensitization of B-Raf(V600E)-mutant cancer cells towards therapeutic agents. Methods: Somatic cell gene targeting was used to generate subclones of the colorectal cancer cell line RKO containing either wild-type or V600E-mutant B-Raf kinase. Cell-biologic analyses were performed in order to link cancer cell traits to the BRAF-mutant genotype. Subsequently, the corresponding tumor cell clones were characterized pharmacogenetically to identify therapeutic agents exhibiting selective sensitivity in B-Raf(V600E)-mutant cells. Results: Genetic targeting of mutant BRAF resulted in restoration of sensitivity to serum starvation-induced apoptosis and efficiently inhibited cell proliferation in the absence of growth factors. Among tested agents, the B-Raf inhibitor dabrafenib was found to induce a strong V600E-dependent shift in cell viability. In contrast, no differential sensitizing effect was observed for conventional chemotherapeutic agents (mitomycin C, oxaliplatin, paclitaxel, etoposide, 5-fluorouracil), nor for the targeted agents cetuximab, sorafenib, vemurafenib, RAF265, or for inhibition of PI3 kinase. Treatment with dabrafenib efficiently inhibited phosphorylation of the B-Raf downstream targets Mek 1/2 and Erk 1/2. Conclusion: Mutant BRAF alleles mediate self-sufficiency of growth signals and serum starvation-induced resistance to apoptosis. Targeting of the BRAF mutation leads to a loss of these hallmarks of cancer. Dabrafenib selectively inhibits cell viability in B-Raf(V600E) mutant cancer cells.