Horizontal Combination of MEK and PI3K/mTOR Inhibition in BRAF Mutant Tumor Cells with or without Concomitant PI3K Pathway Mutations

The RAS/RAF and PI3K/Akt pathways play a key regulatory role in cancer and are often hit by oncogenic mutations. Despite molecular targeting, the long-term success of monotherapy is often hampered by de novo or acquired resistance. In the case of concurrent mutations in both pathways, horizontal combination could be a reasonable approach. In our study, we investigated the MEK inhibitor selumetinib and PI3K/mTOR dual inhibitor BEZ235 alone and in combination in BRAF-only mutant and BRAF + PI3K/PTEN double mutant cancer cells using short- and long-term 2D viability assays, spheroid assays, and immunoblots. In the 2D assays, selumetinib was more effective on BRAF-only mutant lines when compared to BRAF + PI3K/PTEN double mutants. Furthermore, combination therapy had an additive effect in most of the lines while synergism was observed in two of the double mutants. Importantly, in the SW1417 BRAF + PI3K double mutant cells, synergism was also confirmed in the spheroid and in the in vivo model. Mechanistically, p-Akt level decreased only in the SW1417 cell line after combination treatment. In conclusion, the presence of concurrent mutations alone did not predict a stronger response to combination treatment. Therefore, additional investigations are warranted to identify predictive factors that can select patients who can benefit from the horizontal combinational inhibition of these two pathways.


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