Acquired resistance to BRAF inhibitors is mediated by BRAF splicing variants in BRAF V600E mutation-positive colorectal neuroendocrine carcinoma

Cancer Lett. 2022 Sep 1:543:215799. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2022.215799. Epub 2022 Jun 17.


Neuroendocrine carcinomas (NECs), a poorly differentiated subtype of neuroendocrine neoplasms, are aggressive and have a poor prognosis. Colorectal neuroendocrine carcinomas (CRC-NECs) are observed in about 0.6% of all patients with CRC. Interestingly, patients with CRC-NECs show higher frequencies of BRAF mutation than typical CRC. BRAF V600E mutation-positive CRC-NECs were shown to be sensitive to BRAF inhibitors and now are treated by BRAF inhibitors. Similar to the other BRAF V600E mutated cancers, resistances against BRAF inhibitors have been observed, but the resistance mechanisms are still unclear. In this study, we established BRAF V600E mutated CRC-NEC cell line directly from surgical specimens and experimentally obtained BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib resistant cell lines. The resistant cells are revealed to express at least three types of BRAF splicing variants harboring V600E-mutation, and contribute to RAF/MEK/ERK pathway activation. In these cells, MEK and ERK inhibitors but not dabrafenib significantly suppressed cell growth and survival. Thus, in BRAF V600E mutation-positive CRC-NECs, BRAF splicing variants activate the RAF/MEK/ERK pathway and contribute to acquire BRAF inhibitor resistance. Hence, MEK or ERK are potential therapeutic targets to overcome BRAF resistance.

Keywords: BRAF; Colorectal cancer; Drug resistance; Neuroendocrine carcinoma; Splicing variants.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • BRAF protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases