Context: The RET tyrosine kinase encoding gene acts as a dominantly transforming oncogene in thyroid carcinoma and other malignancies. Ponatinib (AP24534) is an oral ATP-competitive tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is in advanced clinical experimentation in leukemia.
Objective: We tested whether ponatinib inhibited RET kinase and oncogenic activity.
Methods: Ponatinib activity was studied by an in vitro RET immunocomplex kinase assay and immunoblotting. The effects of ponatinib on proliferation of human TT, MZ-CRC-1, and TPC-1 thyroid carcinoma cells, which harbor endogenous oncogenic RET alleles, and of NIH3T3 fibroblasts transfected with oncogenic RET mutants were determined. Ponatinib activity on TT cell xenografted tumors in athymic mice was measured.
Results: Ponatinib inhibited immunopurified RET kinase at the IC₅₀ of 25.8 nM (95% confidence interval [CI] = 23.15-28.77 nM). It also inhibited (IC₅₀ = 33.9 nM; 95% CI = 26.41-43.58 nM) kinase activity of RET/V804M, a RET mutant displaying resistance to other tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Ponatinib blunted phosphorylation of point-mutant and rearranged RET-derived oncoproteins and inhibited proliferation of RET-transformed fibroblasts and RET mutant thyroid carcinoma cells. Finally, after 3 weeks of treatment with ponatinib (30 mg/kg/d), the volume of TT cell (medullary thyroid carcinoma) xenografts was reduced from 133 mm³ to an unmeasurable size (difference = 133 mm³, 95% CI = -83 to 349 mm³) (P < .001). Ponatinib-treated TT cell tumors displayed a reduction in the mitotic index, RET phosphorylation, and signaling.
Conclusions: Ponatinib is a potent inhibitor of RET kinase and has promising preclinical activity in models of RET-driven medullary thyroid carcinoma.