Intratumoral heterogeneity is a hallmark of glioblastoma (GBM) tumors, thought to negatively influence therapeutic outcome. Previous studies showed that mesenchymal tumors have a worse outcome than the proneural subtype. Here we focus on STAT3 as its activation precedes the proneural-mesenchymal transition. We first establish a STAT3 gene signature that stratifies GBM patients into STAT3-high and -low cohorts. STAT3 inhibitor treatment selectively mitigates STAT3-high cell viability and tumorigenicity in orthotopic mouse xenograft models. We show the mechanism underlying resistance in STAT3-low cells by combining STAT3 signature analysis with kinome screen data on STAT3 inhibitor-treated cells. This allows us to draw connections between kinases affected by STAT3 inhibitors, their associated transcription factors and target genes. We demonstrate that dual inhibition of IGF-1R and STAT3 sensitizes STAT3-low cells and improves survival in mice. Our study underscores the importance of serially profiling tumors so as to accurately target individuals who may demonstrate molecular subtype switching.
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