STRN-ALK rearranged pediatric malignant peritoneal mesothelioma – Functional testing of 527 cancer drugs in patient-derived cancer cells

Translational Oncology 2021 January 30 [Link]

Astrid Murumägi, Daniela Ungureanu, Mariliina Arjama, Ralf Bützow, Jouko Lohi, Hannu Sariola, Jukka Kanerva, Minna Koskenvuo, Olli Kallioniemi


Genetic rearrangements involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene create oncogenic drivers for several cancers, including malignant peritoneal mesothelioma (MPeM). Here, we report genomic and functional precision oncology profiling on a rare case of a 5-year old patient diagnosed with wide-spread and aggressive MPeM, driven by STRN-ALK rearrangement. We established genomically representative patient-derived cancer cells (PDCs) from the tumor sample and performed high-throughput drug sensitivity testing with 527 oncology compounds to identify potent inhibitors. As expected, the PDCs were overall sensitive to the ALK inhibitors, although the eight different inhibitors tested had variable efficacy. We also discovered other effective inhibitors, such as MEK/ERK inhibitors and those targeting pathways downstream of ALK as well as Bcl-xl inhibitors. In contrast, most cytotoxic drugs were not very effective. ALK inhibitors synergized with MEK and PI3K/mTOR inhibitors, highlighting potential combinatorial strategies to enhance drug efficacy and tackle drug resistance. Based on genomic data and associated functional validation, the patient was treated with the ALK inhibitor crizotinib in combination with conventional chemotherapy (cisplatin and gemcitabine). A complete disease remission was reached, lasting now for over 3 years. Our results illustrate a rare pediatric cancer case, and highlight the potential of functional precision oncology to discover pathogenetic drivers, validate dependency on driver signals, compare different inhibitors against each other and potentially enhance targeted treatments by drug combinations. Such real-time implementation of functional precision oncology could pave the way towards safer and more effective personalized cancer therapies for individual pediatric cancer patients with rare tumors.