Drugging an undruggable pocket on KRAS

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Aug 6;116(32):15823-15829. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1904529116. Epub 2019 Jul 22.


The 3 human RAS genes, KRAS, NRAS, and HRAS, encode 4 different RAS proteins which belong to the protein family of small GTPases that function as binary molecular switches involved in cell signaling. Activating mutations in RAS are among the most common oncogenic drivers in human cancers, with KRAS being the most frequently mutated oncogene. Although KRAS is an excellent drug discovery target for many cancers, and despite decades of research, no therapeutic agent directly targeting RAS has been clinically approved. Using structure-based drug design, we have discovered BI-2852 (1), a KRAS inhibitor that binds with nanomolar affinity to a pocket, thus far perceived to be "undruggable," between switch I and II on RAS; 1 is mechanistically distinct from covalent KRASG12C inhibitors because it binds to a different pocket present in both the active and inactive forms of KRAS. In doing so, it blocks all GEF, GAP, and effector interactions with KRAS, leading to inhibition of downstream signaling and an antiproliferative effect in the low micromolar range in KRAS mutant cells. These findings clearly demonstrate that this so-called switch I/II pocket is indeed druggable and provide the scientific community with a chemical probe that simultaneously targets the active and inactive forms of KRAS.

Keywords: KRAS; NMR; fragment-based drug design; oncology; structure-based drug design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Discovery*
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / chemistry*


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)

Associated data

  • PDB/6GJ5
  • PDB/6GJ6
  • PDB/6GJ7
  • PDB/6GJ8