Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Addiction to multiple oncogenes can be exploited to prevent the emergence of therapeutic resistance.

PMID 25071175


Many cancers exhibit sensitivity to the inhibition of a single genetic lesion, a property that has been successfully exploited with oncogene-targeted therapeutics. However, inhibition of single oncogenes often fails to result in sustained tumor regression due to the emergence of therapy-resistant cells. Here, we report that MYC-driven lymphomas frequently acquire activating mutations in β-catenin, including a previously unreported mutation in a splice acceptor site. Tumors with these genetic lesions are highly dependent on β-catenin for their survival and the suppression of β-catenin resulted in marked apoptosis causally related to a decrease in Bcl-xL expression. Using a novel inducible inhibitor of β-catenin, we illustrate that, although MYC withdrawal or β-catenin inhibition alone results in initial tumor regression, most tumors ultimately recurred, mimicking the clinical response to single-agent targeted therapy. Importantly, the simultaneous combined inhibition of both MYC and β-catenin promoted more rapid tumor regression and successfully prevented tumor recurrence. Hence, we demonstrated that MYC-induced tumors are addicted to mutant β-catenin, and the combined inactivation of MYC and β-catenin induces sustained tumor regression. Our results provide a proof of principle that targeting multiple oncogene addicted pathways can prevent therapeutic resistance.