Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a rapidly lethal disease with few therapeutic options. We studied metabolic heterogeneity in SCLC to identify subtype-selective vulnerabilities. Metabolomics in SCLC cell lines identified two groups correlating with high or low expression of the Achaete-scute homolog-1 (ASCL1) transcription factor (ASCL1High and ASCL1Low), a lineage oncogene. Guanosine nucleotides were elevated in ASCL1Low cells and tumors from genetically engineered mice. ASCL1Low tumors abundantly express the guanosine biosynthetic enzymes inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase-1 and -2 (IMPDH1 and IMPDH2). These enzymes are transcriptional targets of MYC, which is selectively overexpressed in ASCL1Low SCLC. IMPDH inhibition reduced RNA polymerase I-dependent expression of pre-ribosomal RNA and potently suppressed ASCL1Low cell growth in culture, selectively reduced growth of ASCL1Low xenografts, and combined with chemotherapy to improve survival in genetic mouse models of ASCL1Low/MYCHigh SCLC. The data define an SCLC subtype-selective vulnerability related to dependence on de novo guanosine nucleotide synthesis.
Keywords: IMPDH; lung cancer; metabolism; metabolomics; therapeutics.
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