Targeting MYC sensitizes malignant mesothelioma cells to PAK blockage-induced cytotoxicity

American Journal of Cancer Research 2017 August [Link]

Tan Y, Sementino E, Chernoff J, Testa JR


Clinical management of malignant mesothelioma (MM) is very challenging due to marked resistance of this tumor to chemotherapy. Various mechanisms lead to a less than ideal drug concentration inside of MM cells, diminishing cytotoxicity. Consequently, single cytotoxic drugs achieve very modest response rates in MM patients, and combination regimens using standard and novel therapies have achieved only limited improvement in overall survival. Here, we demonstrate that MYC has either proliferative or pro-survival effects in MM cells during normal or stressed conditions, respectively. A MYC inhibitor 10058-F4 reduced MM cell proliferation via down regulation of cyclin D. Under serum starvation conditions, MM cells became quiescent, and the addition of MYC inhibitors triggered apoptosis in the resting MM cells. We also found that high concentrations of the PAK inhibitor PF3758309 killed MM cells, but the drug had only cytostatic effects at lower concentrations. These quiescent cells underwent apoptosis upon pharmacological inhibition of MYC. A novel MYC inhibitor KJ-Pyr-9 and a newer PAK inhibitor, FRAX597, also demonstrated marked cytotoxic cooperativity. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that targeting of MYC can sensitize MM cells and provide rationale for inhibition of MYC and PAK as a novel combinatory regimen for the treatment of this otherwise therapy-resistant, clinically incurable malignancy.