Intermittent administration of MEK inhibitor GDC-0973 plus PI3K inhibitor GDC-0941 triggers robust apoptosis and tumor growth inhibition

Cancer Res. 2012 Jan 1;72(1):210-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-1515. Epub 2011 Nov 14.


Combinations of MAP/ERK kinase (MEK) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors have shown promise in preclinical cancer models, leading to the initiation of clinical trials cotargeting these two key cancer signaling pathways. GDC-0973, a novel selective MEK inhibitor, and GDC-0941, a class I PI3K inhibitor, are in early stage clinical trials as both single agents and in combination. The discovery of these selective inhibitors has allowed investigation into the precise effects of combining inhibitors of two major signaling branches downstream of RAS. Here, we investigated multiple biomarkers in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and PI3K pathway to search for points of convergence that explain the increased apoptosis seen in combination. Using washout studies in vitro and alternate dosing schedules in mice, we showed that intermittent inhibition of the PI3K and MAPK pathway is sufficient for efficacy in BRAF and KRAS mutant cancer cells. The combination of GDC-0973 with the PI3K inhibitor GDC-0941 resulted in combination efficacy in vitro and in vivo via induction of biomarkers associated with apoptosis, including Bcl-2 family proapoptotic regulators. Therefore, these data suggest that continuous exposure of MEK and PI3K inhibitors in combination is not required for efficacy in preclinical cancer models and that sustained effects on downstream apoptosis biomarkers can be observed in response to intermittent dosing.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Indazoles / administration & dosage*
  • Indazoles / pharmacology
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mice
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Sulfonamides / administration & dosage*
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology


  • 2-(1H-indazol-4-yl)-6-(4-methanesulfonylpiperazin-1-ylmethyl)-4-morpholin-4-ylthieno(3,2-d)pyrimidine
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Indazoles
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Sulfonamides
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases