Molecular cancer therapeutics

Loss of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 (TSC2) Is Frequent in Hepatocellular Carcinoma and Predicts Response to mTORC1 Inhibitor Everolimus.

PMID 25724664


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and hyperactivation of mTOR signaling plays a pivotal role in HCC tumorigenesis. Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a heterodimer of TSC1 and TSC2, functions as a negative regulator of mTOR signaling. In the current study, we discovered that TSC2 loss-of-function is common in HCC. TSC2 loss was found in 4 of 8 HCC cell lines and 8 of 28 (28.6%) patient-derived HCC xenografts. TSC2 mutations and deletions are likely to be the underlying cause of TSC2 loss in HCC cell lines, xenografts, and primary tumors for most cases. We further demonstrated that TSC2-null HCC cell lines and xenografts had elevated mTOR signaling and, more importantly, were significantly more sensitive to RAD001/everolimus, an mTORC1 inhibitor. These preclinical findings led to the analysis of TSC2 status in HCC samples collected in the EVOLVE-1 clinical trial of everolimus using an optimized immunohistochemistry assay and identified 15 of 139 (10.8%) samples with low to undetectable levels of TSC2. Although the sample size is too small for formal statistical analysis, TSC2-null/low tumor patients who received everolimus tended to have longer overall survival than those who received placebo. Finally, we performed an epidemiology survey of more than 239 Asian HCC tumors and found the frequency of TSC2 loss to be approximately 20% in Asian HBV(+) HCC. Taken together, our data strongly argue that TSC2 loss is a predictive biomarker for the response to everolimus in HCC patients.

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