Combinatorial Treatment with PARP and MAPK Inhibitors Overcomes Phenotype Switch-Driven Drug Resistance in Advanced Melanoma

Cancer Res. 2023 Dec 1;83(23):3974-3988. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-23-0485.


Metastatic melanoma is either intrinsically resistant or rapidly acquires resistance to targeted therapy treatments, such as MAPK inhibitors (MAPKi). A leading cause of resistance to targeted therapy is a dynamic transition of melanoma cells from a proliferative to a highly invasive state, a phenomenon called phenotype switching. Mechanisms regulating phenotype switching represent potential targets for improving treatment of patients with melanoma. Using a drug screen targeting chromatin regulators in patient-derived three-dimensional MAPKi-resistant melanoma cell cultures, we discovered that PARP inhibitors (PARPi) restore sensitivity to MAPKis, independent of DNA damage repair pathways. Integrated transcriptomic, proteomic, and epigenomic analyses demonstrated that PARPis induce lysosomal autophagic cell death, accompanied by enhanced mitochondrial lipid metabolism that ultimately increases antigen presentation and sensitivity to T-cell cytotoxicity. Moreover, transcriptomic and epigenetic rearrangements induced by PARP inhibition reversed epithelial-mesenchymal transition-like phenotype switching, which redirected melanoma cells toward a proliferative and MAPKi-sensitive state. The combination of PARP and MAPKis synergistically induced cancer cell death both in vitro and in vivo in patient-derived xenograft models. Therefore, this study provides a scientific rationale for treating patients with melanoma with PARPis in combination with MAPKis to abrogate acquired therapy resistance.

Significance: PARP inhibitors can overcome resistance to MAPK inhibitors by activating autophagic cell death and reversing phenotype switching, suggesting that this synergistic combination could help improve the prognosis of patients with melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors* / pharmacology
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors* / therapeutic use
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proteomics


  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors