Background: The Ras/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway is frequently deregulated in cancer and a number of inhibitors that target this pathway are currently in clinical development. It is likely that clinical testing of these agents will be in combination with standard therapies to harness the apoptotic potential of both the agents. To support this strategy, it has been widely observed that a number of chemotherapeutics stimulate the activation of several intracellular signalling cascades including Ras/RAF/MEK/ERK. The MEK1/2 inhibitor selumetinib has been shown to have anti-tumour activity and induce apoptotic cell death as a monotherapy.
Methods: The aim of this study was to identify agents, which would be likely to offer clinical benefit when combined with selumetinib. Here, we used human tumour xenograft models and assessed the effects combining standard chemotherapeutic agents with selumetinib on tumour growth. In addition, we analysed tumour tissue to determine the mechanistic effects of these combinations.
Results: Combining selumetinib with the DNA-alkylating agent, temozolomide (TMZ), resulted in enhanced tumour growth inhibition compared with monotherapies. Biomarker studies highlighted an increase in γH2A.X suggesting that selumetinib is able to enhance the DNA damage induced by TMZ alone. In several models we observed that continuous exposure to selumetinib in combination with docetaxel results in tumour regression. Scheduling of docetaxel before selumetinib was more beneficial than when selumetinib was dosed before docetaxel and demonstrated a pro-apoptotic phenotype. Similar results were seen when selumetinib was combined with the Aurora B inhibitor barasertib.
Conclusion: The data presented suggests that MEK inhibition in combination with several standard chemotherapeutics or an Aurora B kinase inhibitor is a promising clinical strategy.