The Ras/MEK/ERK pathway has been the primary focus of targeted therapies in melanoma; it is aberrantly activated in almost 80% of human cutaneous melanomas (≈50% BRAFV600 mutations and ≈30% NRAS mutations). While drugs targeting the MAPK pathway have yielded success in BRAFV600 mutant melanoma patients, such therapies have been ineffective in patients with NRAS mutant melanomas in part due to their cytostatic effects and primary resistance. Here, we demonstrate that increased Rho/MRTF-pathway activation correlates with high intrinsic resistance to the MEK inhibitor, trametinib, in a panel of NRAS mutant melanoma cell lines. A combination of trametinib with the Rho/MRTF-pathway inhibitor, CCG-222740, synergistically reduced cell viability in NRAS mutant melanoma cell lines in vitro. Furthermore, the combination of CCG-222740 with trametinib induced apoptosis and reduced clonogenicity in SK-Mel-147 cells, which are highly resistant to trametinib. These findings suggest a role of the Rho/MRTF-pathway in intrinsic trametinib resistance in a subset of NRAS mutant melanoma cell lines and highlight the therapeutic potential of concurrently targeting the Rho/MRTF-pathway and MEK in NRAS mutant melanomas.
Keywords: MEK inhibitor; Rho GTPase; resistance.