Transcriptional control of DNA repair networks by CDK7 regulates sensitivity to radiation in MYC-driven medulloblastoma

Cell Rep. 2021 Apr 27;35(4):109013. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109013.

Abstract

MYC-driven medulloblastoma is a major therapeutic challenge due to frequent metastasis and a poor 5-year survival rate. MYC gene amplification results in transcriptional dysregulation, proliferation, and survival of malignant cells. To identify therapeutic targets in MYC-amplified medulloblastoma, we employ a CRISPR-Cas9 essentiality screen targeting 1,140 genes. We identify CDK7 as a mediator of medulloblastoma tumorigenesis. Using chemical inhibitors and genetic depletion, we observe cessation of tumor growth in xenograft mouse models and increases in apoptosis. The results are attributed to repression of a core set of MYC-driven transcriptional programs mediating DNA repair. CDK7 inhibition alters RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) and MYC association at DNA repair genes. Blocking CDK7 activity sensitizes cells to ionizing radiation leading to accrual of DNA damage, extending survival and tumor latency in xenograft mouse models. Our studies establish the selective inhibition of MYC-driven medulloblastoma by CDK7 inhibition combined with radiation as a viable therapeutic strategy.

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