Overactive IGF1/insulin receptors and NRASQ61R mutation drive mechanisms of resistance to pazopanib and define rational combination strategies to treat synovial sarcoma

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Pazopanib is approved for treatment of advanced soft tissue sarcomas, but primary and secondary drug resistance limits its clinical utility. We investigated the molecular mechanisms mediating pazopanib resistance in human synovial sarcoma (SS) models. We found reduced cell sensitivity to pazopanib associated with inefficient inhibition of the two critical signaling nodes, AKT and ERKs, despite strong inhibition of the main drug target, PDGFRα. In the CME-1 cell line, overactivation of IGF1 and Insulin receptors (IGF1R/InsR) sustained AKT activation and pazopanib resistance, which was overcome by a combination treatment with the double IGF1R/InsR inhibitor BMS754807. In the highly pazopanib resistant MoJo cell line, NRASQ61R mutation sustained constitutive ERK activation. Transfection of the NRAS mutant in the pazopanib sensitive SYO-1 cell line increased the drug IC50. MoJo cells treatment with pazopanib in combination with the MEK inhibitor trametinib restored ERK inhibition, synergistically inhibited cell growth, and induced apoptosis. The combination significantly enhanced the antitumor efficacy against MoJo orthotopic xenograft abrogating growth in 38% of mice. These findings identified two different mechanisms of intrinsic pazopanib resistance in SS cells, supporting molecular/immunohistochemical profiling of tumor specimens as a valuable approach to selecting patients who may benefit from rational drug combinations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number408
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019



  • BMS754807
  • Drug resistance
  • NRAS mutation
  • Orthotopic sarcoma xenograft
  • Pazopanib
  • Synovial sarcoma
  • Trametinib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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