BRAFV600E mutation exerts an essential oncogenic function in many tumors, including papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Although BRAFV600E inhibitors are available, lack of response has been frequently observed. To study the mechanism underlying intrinsic resistance to the mutant BRAFV600E selective inhibitor vemurafenib, we established short-term primary cell cultures of human metastatic/recurrent BRAFV600E-PTC, intrathyroidal BRAFV600E-PTC, and normal thyroid (NT). We also generated an early intervention model of human BRAFV600E-PTC orthotopic mouse. We find that metastatic BRAFV600E-PTC cells elicit paracrine-signaling which trigger migration of pericytes, blood endothelial cells and lymphatic endothelial cells as compared to BRAFWT-PTC cells, and show a higher rate of invasion. We further show that vemurafenib therapy significantly suppresses these aberrant functions in non-metastatic BRAFV600E-PTC cells but lesser in metastatic BRAFV600E-PTC cells as compared to vehicle treatment. These results concur with similar folds of down-regulation of tumor microenvironment-associated pro-metastatic molecules, with no effects in BRAFWT-PTC and NT cells. Our early intervention preclinical trial shows that vemurafenib delays tumor growth in the orthotopic BRAFWT/V600E-PTC mice. Importantly, we identify high copy number gain of MCL1 (chromosome 1q) and loss of CDKN2A (P16, chromosome 9p) in metastatic BRAFV600E-PTC cells which are associated with resistance to vemurafenib treatment. Critically, we demonstrate that combined vemurafenib therapy with BCL2/MCL1 inhibitor increases metastatic BRAFV600E-PTC cell death and ameliorates response to vemurafenib treatment as compared to single agent treatment. In conclusion, short-term PTC and NT cultures offer a predictive model for evaluating therapeutic response in patients with PTC. Our PTC pre-clinical model suggests that combined targeted therapy might be an important therapeutic strategy for metastatic and refractory BRAFV600E-positive PTC.
Duquette, M., Sadow, P. M., Husain, A., Sims, J. N., Antonello, Z. A., Fischer, A. H., … Nucera, C. (2015). Metastasis-associated MCL1 and P16 copy number alterations dictate resistance to vemurafenib in a BRAFV600E patient-derived papillary thyroid carcinoma preclinical model. Oncotarget, 6(40), 42445–42467. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6442