Purpose: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common pediatric soft tissue sarcoma and includes a PAX3- or PAX7-FOXO1 fusion-positive subtype. Amplification of chromosomal region 12q13-q14, which contains the CDK4 proto-oncogene, was identified in an aggressive subset of fusion-positive RMS. CDK4/6 inhibitors have antiproliferative activity in CDK4-amplified liposarcoma and neuroblastoma, suggesting CDK4/6 inhibition as a potential therapeutic strategy in fusion-positive RMS.
Experimental design: We examined the biologic consequences of CDK4 knockdown, CDK4 overexpression, and pharmacologic CDK4/6 inhibition by LEE011 in fusion-positive RMS cell lines and xenografts.
Results: Knockdown of CDK4 abrogated proliferation and transformation of 12q13-14-amplified and nonamplified fusion-positive RMS cells via G1-phase cell-cycle arrest. This arrest was mediated by reduced RB phosphorylation and E2F-responsive gene expression. Significant differences in E2F target expression, cell-cycle distribution, proliferation, or transformation were not observed in RMS cells overexpressing CDK4. Treatment with LEE011 phenocopied CDK4 knockdown, decreasing viability, RB phosphorylation, and E2F-responsive gene expression and inducing G1-phase cell-cycle arrest. Although all fusion-positive cell lines showed sensitivity to CDK4/6 inhibition, there was diminished sensitivity associated with CDK4 amplification and overexpression. This variable responsiveness to LEE011 was recapitulated in xenograft models of CDK4-amplified and nonamplified fusion-positive RMS.
Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that CDK4 is necessary but overexpression is not sufficient for RB-E2F-mediated G1-phase cell-cycle progression, proliferation, and transformation in fusion-positive RMS. Our studies indicate that LEE011 is active in the setting of fusion-positive RMS and suggest that low CDK4-expressing fusion-positive tumors may be particularly susceptible to CDK4/6 inhibition.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.