American journal of cancer research

Downregulation of Noxa by RAF/MEK inhibition counteracts cell death response in mutant B-RAF melanoma cells.

PMID 23226618


FDA approval of new therapies in 2011 has greatly expanded the treatment options for metastatic melanoma. Patients with V600 mutant v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 (B-RAF) positive metastatic melanoma are now treated with the RAF inhibitor, vemurafenib (Zelboraf) as a first line therapy. Vemurafenib decreases tumor size by at least 30% in approximately 50% of patients and increases progression-free survival and overall patient survival compared to the previous standard-of-care, dacarbazine. However, some patients treated with vemurafenib fail to show significant tumor shrinkage, and most patients who initially respond to the drug eventually show disease progression. Therefore, there is a clinical need to improve efficacy and prevent resistance to vemurafenib. It has been previously shown that cell death resulting from RAF/mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibition is largely dependent on increased expression of pro-apoptotic, Bcl-2 homology domain (BH3)-only proteins, such as Bcl-2-like 11 (Bim-EL) and Bcl-2 modifying factor (Bmf). Here, we show that contrary to expression of Bim-EL and Bmf, the pro-apoptotic, BH3-only protein, phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate-induced protein 1 (Noxa), is strongly downregulated after RAF/MEK inhibition. This downregulation occurs at both the protein and mRNA level of expression and is associated with the inhibition of cell cycle progression. Restoring expression of Noxa in combination with RAF/MEK inhibition enhances cell death. Co-expression of the pro-survival, B-cell CLL/lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) family member, myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (Mcl-1), with Noxa fully mitigates the enhanced cell death associated with increased Noxa expression. These data indicate that manipulating the Noxa/Mcl-1 axis may enhance the efficacy of RAF/MEK inhibitors.