Kinase inhibitors represent the backbone of targeted cancer therapy, yet only a limited number of oncogenic drivers are directly druggable. By interrogating the activity of 1,505 kinase inhibitors, we found that BRD4-NUT-rearranged NUT midline carcinoma (NMC) cells are specifically killed by CDK9 inhibition (CDK9i) and depend on CDK9 and Cyclin-T1 expression. We show that CDK9i leads to robust induction of apoptosis and of markers of DNA damage response in NMC cells. While both CDK9i and bromodomain inhibition over time result in reduced Myc protein expression, only bromodomain inhibition induces cell differentiation and a p21-induced cell-cycle arrest in these cells. Finally, RNA-seq and ChIP-based analyses reveal a BRD4-NUT-specific CDK9i-induced perturbation of transcriptional elongation. Thus, our data provide a mechanistic basis for the genotype-dependent vulnerability of NMC cells to CDK9i that may be of relevance for the development of targeted therapies for NMC patients.
Keywords: CDK9 inhibitor; NUT midline carcinoma; high-throughput screen; transcriptional elongation.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.