Therapeutic potential of combined BRAF/MEK blockade in BRAF-wild type preclinical tumor models

Anais Del Curatolo, Fabiana Conciatori, Ursula Cesta Incani, Chiara Bazzichetto, Italia Falcone, Vincenzo Corbo, Sabrina D'Agosto, Adriana Eramo, Giovanni Sette, Isabella Sperduti, Teresa De Luca, Mirko Marabese, Senji Shirasawa, Ruggero De Maria, Aldo Scarpa, Massimo Broggini, Donatella Del Bufalo, Francesco Cognetti, Michele Milella, Ludovica Ciuffreda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mounting evidence suggests that RAF-mediated MEK activation plays a crucial role in paradox MAPK (re)activation, leading to resistance and therapeutic failure with agents hitting a single step along the MAPK cascade. Methods: We examined the molecular and functional effects of single and combined BRAF (dabrafenib), pan-RAF (RAF265), MEK (trametinib) and EGFR/HER2 (lapatinib) inhibition, using Western Blot and conservative isobologram analysis to assess functional synergism, and explored genetic determinants of synergistic interactions. Immunoprecipitation based assays were used to detect the interaction between BRAF and CRAF. The Mann-Whitney U test was used for comparing quantitative variables. Results: Here we demonstrated that a combination of MEK and BRAF inhibitors overcomes paradoxical MAPK activation (induced by BRAF inhibitors) in BRAF-wt/RAS-mut NSCLC and PDAC in vitro. This results in growth inhibitory synergism, both in vitro and in vivo, in the majority (65%) of the cellular models analyzed, encompassing cell lines and patient-derived cancer stem cells and organoids. However, RAS mutational status is not the sole determinant of functional synergism between RAF and MEK inhibitors, as demonstrated in KRAS isogenic tumor cell line models. Moreover, in EGFR-driven contexts, paradoxical MAPK (re)activation in response to selective BRAF inhibition was dependent on EGFR family signaling and could be offset by simultaneous EGFR/HER-2 blockade. Conclusions: Overall, our data indicate that RAF inhibition-induced paradoxical MAPK activation could be exploited for therapeutic purposes by simultaneously targeting both RAF and MEK (and potentially EGFR family members) in appropriate molecular contexts. KRAS mutation per se does not effectively predict therapeutic synergism and other biomarkers need to be developed to identify patients potentially deriving benefit from combined BRAF/MEK targeting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 9 2018


  • BRAF
  • Combination therapy
  • MAPK
  • MEK
  • Paradoxical effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Therapeutic potential of combined BRAF/MEK blockade in BRAF-wild type preclinical tumor models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this