Genetically activated kinases have been attractive therapeutic targets in cancer due to the relative ease of developing tumor-specific treatment strategies for them. To discover novel putative oncogenic kinases, we identified 26 genes commonly amplified and overexpressed in breast cancer and subjected them to a lentiviral shRNA cell viability screen in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. Here, we report that CLK2, a kinase that phosphorylates SR proteins involved in splicing, acts as an oncogene in breast cancer. Deregulated alternative splicing patterns are commonly observed in human cancers but the underlying mechanisms and functional relevance are still largely unknown. CLK2 is amplified and overexpressed in a significant fraction of breast tumors. Downregulation of CLK2 inhibits breast cancer growth in cell culture and in xenograft models and it enhances cell migration and invasion. Loss of CLK2 in luminal breast cancer cells leads to the upregulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related genes and a switch to mesenchymal splice variants of several genes, including ENAH (MENA). These results imply that therapeutic targeting of CLK2 may be used to modulate EMT splicing patterns and to inhibit breast tumor growth.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.