A Cereblon Modulator CC-885 Induces CRBN- and p97-Dependent PLK1 Degradation and Synergizes with Volasertib to Suppress Lung Cancer

Mol Ther Oncolytics. 2020 Jun 23:18:215-225. doi: 10.1016/j.omto.2020.06.013. eCollection 2020 Sep 25.


Therapeutic targeting of advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) represents a major goal of clinical treatment. Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is an essential mitotic kinase in cell cycle progression and is associated with oncogenesis in a large spectrum of cancer types, including NSCLC. Volasertib (BI 6727) is a potent, selective, PLK1 inhibitor that is currently under phase 2 clinical trials with modest antitumor activity against solid tumors. As the combination of volasertib with pemetrexed does not improve efficacy for NSCLC treatment, it is crucial to identify compounds that could enhance efficacy with volasertib. Immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) bind to E3 ligase CRBN and repurposes it to ubiquitinate other proteins as neo-substrates, representing an effective treatment for hematologic malignancies. In this study, by screening IMiDs, we found that a novel CRBN modulator, CC-885, can synergistically inhibit NSCLC with volasertib both in vitro and in vivo. This synergistic effect overcomes volasertib resistance caused by PLK1 mutations and is compromised in CRBN-or p97-depleted cells. Mechanistically, CC-885 selectively promotes CRBN- and p97-dependent PLK1 ubiquitination and degradation, thereby enhancing the sensitivity of NSCLC to volasertib. In conclusion, our findings reveal that PLK1 is a neo-substrate of CUL4-CRBN induced by CC-885 and represent a combinational approach for treating NSCLC.

Keywords: CC-885; IMiDs; NSCLC; PLK1; immunomodulatory drugs; protein stability; ubiquitination; volasertib.