Diffuse midline gliomas (DMGs) are universally lethal malignancies occurring chiefly during childhood and involving midline structures of the central nervous system, including thalamus, pons, and spinal cord. These molecularly related cancers are characterized by high prevalence of the histone H3K27M mutation. In search of effective therapeutic options, we examined multiple DMG cultures in sequential quantitative high-throughput screens (HTS) of 2706 approved and investigational drugs. This effort generated 19,936 single-agent dose responses that inspired a series of HTS-enabled drug combination assessments encompassing 9195 drug-drug examinations. Top combinations were validated across patient-derived cell cultures representing the major DMG genotypes. In vivo testing in patient-derived xenograft models validated the combination of the multi-histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor panobinostat and the proteasome inhibitor marizomib as a promising therapeutic approach. Transcriptional and metabolomic surveys revealed substantial alterations to key metabolic processes and the cellular unfolded protein response after treatment with panobinostat and marizomib. Mitigation of drug-induced cytotoxicity and basal mitochondrial respiration with exogenous application of nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) or exacerbation of these phenotypes when blocking nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) production via nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) inhibition demonstrated that metabolic catastrophe drives the combination-induced cytotoxicity. This study provides a comprehensive single-agent and combinatorial drug screen for DMG and identifies concomitant HDAC and proteasome inhibition as a promising therapeutic strategy that underscores underrecognized metabolic vulnerabilities in DMG.
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