PTEN mutant non-small cell lung cancer require ATM to suppress pro-apoptotic signalling and evade radiotherapy

Cell Biosci. 2022 Apr 27;12(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s13578-022-00778-7.


Background: Despite advances in treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, carriers of certain genetic alterations are prone to failure. One such factor frequently mutated, is the tumor suppressor PTEN. These tumors are supposed to be more resistant to radiation, chemo- and immunotherapy.

Results: We demonstrate that loss of PTEN led to altered expression of transcriptional programs which directly regulate therapy resistance, resulting in establishment of radiation resistance. While PTEN-deficient tumor cells were not dependent on DNA-PK for IR resistance nor activated ATR during IR, they showed a significant dependence for the DNA damage kinase ATM. Pharmacologic inhibition of ATM, via KU-60019 and AZD1390 at non-toxic doses, restored and even synergized with IR in PTEN-deficient human and murine NSCLC cells as well in a multicellular organotypic ex vivo tumor model.

Conclusion: PTEN tumors are addicted to ATM to detect and repair radiation induced DNA damage. This creates an exploitable bottleneck. At least in cellulo and ex vivo we show that low concentration of ATM inhibitor is able to synergise with IR to treat PTEN-deficient tumors in genetically well-defined IR resistant lung cancer models.

Keywords: ATM; Cancer; DNA-PK; IR; NSCLC; PI3K; PTEN; Radiotherapy.