Functional genomics identifies specific vulnerabilities in PTEN-deficient breast cancer.
BACKGROUND:Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is one of the most frequently inactivated tumor suppressors in breast cancer. While PTEN itself is not considered a druggable target, PTEN synthetic-sick or synthetic-lethal (PTEN-SSL) genes are potential drug targets in PTEN-deficient breast cancers. Therefore, with the aim of identifying potential targets for precision breast cancer therapy, we sought to discover PTEN-SSL genes present in a broad spectrum of breast cancers. METHODS:To discover broad-spectrum PTEN-SSL genes in breast cancer, we used a multi-step approach that started with (1) a genome-wide short interfering RNA (siRNA) screen of ~ 21,000 genes in a pair of isogenic human mammary epithelial cell lines, followed by (2) a short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen of ~ 1200 genes focused on hits from the first screen in a panel of 11 breast cancer cell lines; we then determined reproducibility of hits by (3) identification of overlaps between our results and reanalyzed data from 3 independent gene-essentiality screens, and finally, for selected candidate PTEN-SSL genes we (4) confirmed PTEN-SSL activity using either drug sensitivity experiments in a panel of 19 cell lines or mutual exclusivity analysis of publicly available pan-cancer somatic mutation data. RESULTS:The screens (steps 1 and 2) and the reproducibility analysis (step 3) identified six candidate broad-spectrum PTEN-SSL genes (PIK3CB, ADAMTS20, AP1M2, HMMR, STK11, and NUAK1). PIK3CB was previously identified as PTEN-SSL, while the other five genes represent novel PTEN-SSL candidates. Confirmation studies (step 4) provided additional evidence that NUAK1 and STK11 have PTEN-SSL patterns of activity. Consistent with PTEN-SSL status, inhibition of the NUAK1 protein kinase by the small molecule drug HTH-01-015 selectively impaired viability in multiple PTEN-deficient breast cancer cell lines, while mutations affecting STK11 and PTEN were largely mutually exclusive across large pan-cancer data sets. CONCLUSIONS:Six genes showed PTEN-SSL patterns of activity in a large proportion of PTEN-deficient breast cancer cell lines and are potential specific vulnerabilities in PTEN-deficient breast cancer. Furthermore, the NUAK1 PTEN-SSL vulnerability identified by RNA interference techniques can be recapitulated and exploited using the small molecule kinase inhibitor HTH-01-015. Thus, NUAK1 inhibition may be an effective strategy for precision treatment of PTEN-deficient breast tumors.
Tang, YC; Ho, S-C; Tan, E; Ng, AWT; McPherson, JR; Goh, GYL; Teh, BT; Bard, F; Rozen, SG
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