A first-in-class Polymerase Theta Inhibitor selectively targets Homologous-Recombination-Deficient Tumors

Nat Cancer. 2021 Jun;2(6):598-610. doi: 10.1038/s43018-021-00203-x. Epub 2021 Jun 17.


DNA polymerase theta (POLθ) is synthetic lethal with Homologous Recombination (HR) deficiency and thus a candidate target for HR-deficient cancers. Through high-throughput small molecule screens we identified the antibiotic Novobiocin (NVB) as a specific POLθ inhibitor that selectively kills HR-deficient tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. NVB directly binds to the POLθ ATPase domain, inhibits its ATPase activity, and phenocopies POLθ depletion. NVB kills HR-deficient breast and ovarian tumors in GEMM, xenograft and PDX models. Increased POLθ levels predict NVB sensitivity, and BRCA-deficient tumor cells with acquired resistance to PARP inhibitors (PARPi) are sensitive to NVB in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, NVB-mediated cell death in PARPi-resistant cells arises from increased double-strand break end resection, leading to accumulation of single-strand DNA intermediates and non-functional RAD51 foci. Our results demonstrate that NVB may be useful alone or in combination with PARPi in treating HR-deficient tumors, including those with acquired PARPi resistance. (151/150).

Keywords: Fanconi Anemia; HRD cancer; Homologous Recombination; MMEJ; Novobiocin; PARP inhibitor resistance; Polymerase theta (POLθ).