The efficacy of the highly selective RET inhibitor selpercatinib is now established in RET-driven cancers, and we sought to characterize the molecular determinants of response and resistance. We find that the pre-treatment genomic landscape does not shape the variability of treatment response except for rare instances of RAS-mediated primary resistance. By contrast, acquired selpercatinib resistance is driven by MAPK pathway reactivation by one of two distinct routes. In some patients, on- and off-target pathway reactivation via secondary RET solvent front mutations or MET amplifications are evident. In other patients, rare RET-wildtype tumor cell populations driven by an alternative mitogenic driver are selected for by treatment. Multiple distinct mechanisms are often observed in the same patient, suggesting polyclonal resistance may be common. Consequently, sequential RET-directed therapy may require combination treatment with inhibitors targeting alternative MAPK effectors, emphasizing the need for prospective characterization of selpercatinib-treated tumors at the time of monotherapy progression.
© 2022. The Author(s).