Purpose: Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is the most frequent endocrine tumor. BRAFV600Erepresents the PTC hallmark and is targeted with selective inhibitors (e.g. vemurafenib). Although there have been promising results in clinical trials using these inhibitors, most patients develop resistance and progress. Tumor clonal diversity is proposed as one mechanism underlying drug resistance. Here we have investigated mechanisms of primary and secondary resistance to vemurafenib in BRAFWT/V600E-positive PTC patientderived cells with P16-/-(CDKN2A-/-). Experimental Design: Following treatment with vemurafenib, we expanded a sub-population of cells with primary resistance and characterized them genetically and cytogenetically. We have used exome sequencing, metaphase chromosome analysis, FISH and oligonucleotide SNP-microarray assays to assess clonal evolution of vemurafenib-resistant cells. Furthermore, we have validated our findings by networks and pathways analyses using PTC clinical samples. Results: Vemurafenib-resistant cells grow similarly to naÃ¯ve cells but are refractory to apoptosis upon treatment with vemurafenib, and accumulate in G2-M phase. We find that vemurafenib-resistant cells show amplification of chromosome 5 and de novo mutations in the RBM (RNA-binding motifs) genes family (i.e. RBMX, RBM10). RBMX knockdown in naÃ¯ve-cells contributes to tetraploidization, including expansion of clones with chromosome 5 aberrations (e.g. isochromosome 5p). RBMX elicits gene regulatory networks with chromosome 5q cancer-associated genes and pathways for G2-M and DNA damage-response checkpoint regulation in BRAFWT/V600E-PTC. Importantly, combined therapy with vemurafenib plus palbociclib (inhibitor of CDK4/6, mimicking P16 functions) synergistically induces stronger apoptosis than single agents in resistant-cells and in anaplastic thyroid tumor cells harboring the heterozygous BRAFWT/V600Emutation. Conclusions: Critically, our findings suggest for the first time that targeting BRAFWT/V600E and CDK4/6 represents a novel therapeutic strategy to treat vemurafenib-resistant or vemurafenib-naÃ¯ve radioiodine-refractory BRAFWT/V600E-PTC. This combined therapy could prevent selection and expansion of aggressive PTC cell sub-clones with intrinsic resistance, targeting tumor cells either with primary or secondary resistance to BRAFV600Einhibitor.
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