BCL2L11 Induction Mediates Sensitivity to Src and MEK1/2 Inhibition in Thyroid Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Jan 6;15(2):378. doi: 10.3390/cancers15020378.


Patients with advanced thyroid cancer, including advanced papillary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC), have low survival rates because of the lack of efficient therapies available that can combat their aggressiveness. A total of 90% of thyroid cancers have identifiable driver mutations, which often are components of the MAPK pathway, including BRAF, RAS, and RET-fusions. In addition, Src is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase that is overexpressed and activated in thyroid cancer, which we and others have shown is a clinically relevant target. We have previously demonstrated that combined inhibition of Src with dasatinib and the MAPK pathway with trametinib synergistically inhibits growth and induces apoptosis in BRAF- and RAS-mutant thyroid cancer cells. Herein, we identified the pro-apoptotic protein BCL2L11 (BIM) as being a key mediator of sensitivity in response to combined dasatinib and trametinib treatment. Specifically, cells that are sensitive to combined dasatinib and trametinib treatment have inhibition of FAK/Src, MEK/ERK, and AKT, resulting in the dramatic upregulation of BIM, while cells that are resistant lack inhibition of AKT and have a dampened induction of BIM. Inhibition of AKT directly sensitizes resistant cells to combined dasatinib and trametinib but will not be clinically feasible. Importantly, targeting BCL-XL with the BH3-mimeitc ABT-263 is sufficient to overcome lack of BIM induction and sensitize resistant cells to combined dasatinib and trametinib treatment. This study provides evidence that combined Src and MEK1/2 inhibition is a promising therapeutic option for patients with advanced thyroid cancer and identifies BIM induction as a potential biomarker of response.

Keywords: BIM; MAPK; Src; combination; dasatinib; targeted therapy; thyroid cancer; trametinib.