Systematic profiling of conditional pathway activation identifies context-dependent synthetic lethalities

Nat Genet. 2023 Oct;55(10):1709-1720. doi: 10.1038/s41588-023-01515-7. Epub 2023 Sep 25.


The paradigm of cancer-targeted therapies has focused largely on inhibition of critical pathways in cancer. Conversely, conditional activation of signaling pathways as a new source of selective cancer vulnerabilities has not been deeply characterized. In this study, we sought to systematically identify context-specific gene-activation-induced lethalities in cancer. To this end, we developed a method for gain-of-function genetic perturbations simultaneously across ~500 barcoded cancer cell lines. Using this approach, we queried the pan-cancer vulnerability landscape upon activating ten key pathway nodes, revealing selective activation dependencies of MAPK and PI3K pathways associated with specific biomarkers. Notably, we discovered new pathway hyperactivation dependencies in subsets of APC-mutant colorectal cancers where further activation of the WNT pathway by APC knockdown or direct β-catenin overexpression led to robust antitumor effects in xenograft and patient-derived organoid models. Together, this study reveals a new class of conditional gene-activation dependencies in cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics
  • beta Catenin / genetics


  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • beta Catenin