Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities. Recent success developing genotypically targeted therapies, with potency only in well-defined subpopulations of tumors, suggests a path to improving patient survival. We used a library of oligonucleotide inhibitors of microRNAs, a class of posttranscriptional gene regulators, to identify novel synthetic lethal interactions between miRNA inhibition and molecular mechanisms in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Two inhibitors, those for miR-92a and miR-1226*, produced a toxicity distribution across a panel of 27 cell lines that correlated with loss of p53 protein expression. Notably, depletion of p53 was sufficient to confer sensitivity to otherwise resistant telomerase-immortalized bronchial epithelial cells. We found that both miR inhibitors cause sequence-specific downregulation of the miR-17∼92 polycistron, and this downregulation was toxic only in the context of p53 loss. Mechanistic studies indicated that the selective toxicity of miR-17∼92 polycistron inactivation was the consequence of derepression of vitamin D signaling via suppression of CYP24A1, a rate-limiting enzyme in the 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 metabolic pathway. Of note, high CYP24A1 expression significantly correlated with poor patient outcome in multiple lung cancer cohorts. Our results indicate that the screening approach used in this study can identify clinically relevant synthetic lethal interactions and that vitamin D receptor agonists may show enhanced efficacy in p53-negative lung cancer patients.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.