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Curated Journal Articles on Mesothelioma

Merlin Deficiency Predicts FAK Inhibitor Sensitivity: A Synthetic Lethal Relationship

Science Translational Medicine. 2014 May 21. [Link]

Kadariya Y, Kolev VN, McClatchey AI, Menges C, Pachter JA, Padval M, Ring JE, Shapiro IM, Testa JR, Vidal CM, Weaver DT, Wright Q, Xu Q,

Abstract

The goal of targeted therapy is to match a selective drug with a genetic lesion that predicts for drug sensitivity. In a diverse panel of cancer cell lines, we found that the cells most sensitive to focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibition lack expression of the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor gene product, Merlin. Merlin expression is often lost in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), an asbestos-induced aggressive cancer with limited treatment options. Our data demonstrate that low Merlin expression predicts for increased sensitivity of MPM cells to a FAK inhibitor, VS-4718, in vitro and in tumor xenograft models. Disruption of MPM cell-cell or cell–extracellular matrix (ECM) contacts with blocking antibodies suggests that weak cell-cell adhesions in Merlin-negative MPM cells underlie their greater dependence on cell-ECM–induced FAK signaling. This provides one explanation of why Merlin-negative cells are vulnerable to FAK inhibitor treatment. Furthermore, we validated aldehyde dehydrogenase as a marker of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in MPM, a cell population thought to mediate tumor relapse after chemotherapy. Whereas pemetrexed and cisplatin, standard-of-care agents for MPM, enrich for CSCs, FAK inhibitor treatment preferentially eliminates these cells. These preclinical results provide the rationale for a clinical trial in MPM patients using a FAK inhibitor as a single agent after first-line chemotherapy. With this design, the FAK inhibitor could potentially induce a more durable clinical response through reduction of CSCs along with a strong antitumor effect. Furthermore, our data suggest that patients with Merlin-negative tumors may especially benefit from FAK inhibitor treatment.

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