BRAF Inhibitors Reprogram Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts to Drive Matrix Remodeling and Therapeutic Escape in Melanoma

Cancer Res. 2022 Feb 1;82(3):419-432. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0614. Epub 2022 Jan 21.


The tumor stroma and its cellular components are known to play an important role in tumor response to treatment. Here, we report a novel resistance mechanism in melanoma that is elicited by BRAF inhibitor (BRAFi)-induced noncanonical activation of nuclear β-catenin signaling in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF). Treatment with BRAFi leads to an expanded CAF population with increased β-catenin nuclear accumulation and enhanced biological properties. This CAF subpopulation is essential for melanoma cells to proliferate and acquire resistance to BRAFi/MEK inhibitors (MEKi). Mechanistically, BRAFi induces BRAF-CRAF heterodimerization and subsequent activation of ERK signaling in CAFs, leading to inactivation of the β-catenin destruction complex. RNA-seq identified periostin (POSTN) as a major downstream effector of β-catenin in CAFs. POSTN compensates for the loss of β-catenin in CAFs and mediates melanoma cell BRAFi/MEKi resistance. In melanoma cells, POSTN activates phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling and subsequently reactivates the ERK pathway that was inhibited by BRAFi/MEKi. Collectively, these data underscore the role of BRAFi-induced CAF reprogramming in matrix remodeling and therapeutic escape of melanoma cells. SIGNIFICANCE: β-Catenin activation in cancer-associated fibroblasts in response to BRAF inhibitors stimulates POSTN secretion to promote resistance in cancer cells, revealing POSTN as a potential matrix target in cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays / methods*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf