Identifying the druggable interactome of EWS-FLI1 reveals MCL-1 dependent differential sensitivities of Ewing sarcoma cells to apoptosis inducers

Oncotarget. 2018 Jul 24;9(57):31018-31031. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.25760.


Ewing sarcoma (EwS) is an aggressive pediatric bone cancer in need of more effective therapies than currently available. Most research into novel targeted therapeutic approaches is focused on the fusion oncogene EWSR1-FLI1, which is the genetic hallmark of this disease. In this study, a broad range of 3,325 experimental compounds, among them FDA approved drugs and natural products, were screened for their effect on EwS cell viability depending on EWS-FLI1 expression. In a network-based approach we integrated the results from drug perturbation screens and RNA sequencing, comparing EWS-FLI1-high (normal expression) with EWS-FLI1-low (knockdown) conditions, revealing novel interactions between compounds and EWS-FLI1 associated biological processes. The top candidate list of druggable EWS-FLI1 targets included genes involved in translation, histone modification, microtubule structure, topoisomerase activity as well as apoptosis regulation. We confirmed our in silico results using viability and apoptosis assays, underlining the applicability of our integrative and systemic approach. We identified differential sensitivities of Ewing sarcoma cells to BCL-2 family inhibitors dependent on the EWS-FLI1 regulome including altered MCL-1 expression and subcellular localization. This study facilitates the selection of effective targeted approaches for future combinatorial therapies of patients suffering from Ewing sarcoma.

Keywords: BCL-2 inhibitors; Ewing sarcoma; apoptosis; drug-target network; high-throughput compound screening.