Caroline M Emery

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, United States

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Publications (7)118.01 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Melanomas that contain B-RAFV600E mutations respond transiently to RAF and MEK inhibitors; however, resistance to these agents remains a formidable challenge. Although B- or C-RAF dysregulation represent prominent resistance mechanisms, resistance-associated point mutations in RAF oncoproteins are surprisingly rare. To gain insights herein, we performed random mutagenesis screens to identify B- or C-RAF mutations that confer resistance to RAF inhibitors. Whereas bona fide B-RAFV600E resistance alleles were rarely observed, we identified multiple C-RAF mutations that produced biochemical and pharmacological resistance. Potent C-RAF resistance alleles localized to a 14-3-3 consensus binding site or a separate site within the P loop. These mutations elicited paradoxical up-regulation of RAF kinase activity in a dimerization-dependent manner following exposure to RAF inhibitors. Knowledge of resistance-associated C-RAF mutations may enhance biochemical understanding of RAF-dependent signaling, anticipate clinical resistance to novel RAF inhibitors, and guide the design of "next-generation" inhibitors for deployment in RAF or RAS-driven malignancies.
    Cancer Research 06/2013; · 9.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A detailed understanding of the mechanisms by which tumors acquire resistance to targeted anticancer agents should speed the development of treatment strategies with lasting clinical efficacy. RAF inhibition in BRAF-mutant melanoma exemplifies the promise and challenge of many targeted drugs; although response rates are high, resistance invariably develops. Here, we articulate overarching principles of resistance to kinase inhibitors, as well as a translational approach to characterize resistance in the clinical setting through tumor mutation profiling. As a proof of principle, we performed targeted, massively parallel sequencing of 138 cancer genes in a tumor obtained from a patient with melanoma who developed resistance to PLX4032 after an initial dramatic response. The resulting profile identified an activating mutation at codon 121 in the downstream kinase MEK1 that was absent in the corresponding pretreatment tumor. The MEK1(C121S) mutation was shown to increase kinase activity and confer robust resistance to both RAF and MEK inhibition in vitro. Thus, MEK1(C121S) or functionally similar mutations are predicted to confer resistance to combined MEK/RAF inhibition. These results provide an instructive framework for assessing mechanisms of acquired resistance to kinase inhibition and illustrate the use of emerging technologies in a manner that may accelerate personalized cancer medicine.
    Journal of Clinical Oncology 03/2011; 29(22):3085-96. · 18.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Oncogenic mutations in the serine/threonine kinase B-RAF (also known as BRAF) are found in 50-70% of malignant melanomas. Pre-clinical studies have demonstrated that the B-RAF(V600E) mutation predicts a dependency on the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling cascade in melanoma-an observation that has been validated by the success of RAF and MEK inhibitors in clinical trials. However, clinical responses to targeted anticancer therapeutics are frequently confounded by de novo or acquired resistance. Identification of resistance mechanisms in a manner that elucidates alternative 'druggable' targets may inform effective long-term treatment strategies. Here we expressed ∼600 kinase and kinase-related open reading frames (ORFs) in parallel to interrogate resistance to a selective RAF kinase inhibitor. We identified MAP3K8 (the gene encoding COT/Tpl2) as a MAPK pathway agonist that drives resistance to RAF inhibition in B-RAF(V600E) cell lines. COT activates ERK primarily through MEK-dependent mechanisms that do not require RAF signalling. Moreover, COT expression is associated with de novo resistance in B-RAF(V600E) cultured cell lines and acquired resistance in melanoma cells and tissue obtained from relapsing patients following treatment with MEK or RAF inhibitors. We further identify combinatorial MAPK pathway inhibition or targeting of COT kinase activity as possible therapeutic strategies for reducing MAPK pathway activation in this setting. Together, these results provide new insights into resistance mechanisms involving the MAPK pathway and articulate an integrative approach through which high-throughput functional screens may inform the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
    Nature 12/2010; 468(7326):968-72. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: [This corrects the article on p. e7887 in vol. 4.].
    PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(9). · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Genetic alterations that activate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) pathway occur commonly in cancer. For example, the majority of melanomas harbor mutations in the BRAF oncogene, which are predicted to confer enhanced sensitivity to pharmacologic MAP kinase inhibition (e.g., RAF or MEK inhibitors). We investigated the clinical relevance of MEK dependency in melanoma by massively parallel sequencing of resistant clones generated from a MEK1 random mutagenesis screen in vitro, as well as tumors obtained from relapsed patients following treatment with AZD6244, an allosteric MEK inhibitor. Most mutations conferring resistance to MEK inhibition in vitro populated the allosteric drug binding pocket or alpha-helix C and showed robust ( approximately 100-fold) resistance to allosteric MEK inhibition. Other mutations affected MEK1 codons located within or abutting the N-terminal negative regulatory helix (helix A), which also undergo gain-of-function germline mutations in cardio-facio-cutaneous (CFC) syndrome. One such mutation, MEK1(P124L), was identified in a resistant metastatic focus that emerged in a melanoma patient treated with AZD6244. Both MEK1(P124L) and MEK1(Q56P), which disrupts helix A, conferred cross-resistance to PLX4720, a selective B-RAF inhibitor. However, exposing BRAF-mutant melanoma cells to AZD6244 and PLX4720 in combination prevented emergence of resistant clones. These results affirm the importance of MEK dependency in BRAF-mutant melanoma and suggest novel mechanisms of resistance to MEK and B-RAF inhibitors that may have important clinical implications.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2009; 106(48):20411-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Detection of critical cancer gene mutations in clinical tumor specimens may predict patient outcomes and inform treatment options; however, high-throughput mutation profiling remains underdeveloped as a diagnostic approach. We report the implementation of a genotyping and validation algorithm that enables robust tumor mutation profiling in the clinical setting. We developed and implemented an optimized mutation profiling platform ("OncoMap") to interrogate approximately 400 mutations in 33 known oncogenes and tumor suppressors, many of which are known to predict response or resistance to targeted therapies. The performance of OncoMap was analyzed using DNA derived from both frozen and FFPE clinical material in a diverse set of cancer types. A subsequent in-depth analysis was conducted on histologically and clinically annotated pediatric gliomas. The sensitivity and specificity of OncoMap were 93.8% and 100% in fresh frozen tissue; and 89.3% and 99.4% in FFPE-derived DNA. We detected known mutations at the expected frequencies in common cancers, as well as novel mutations in adult and pediatric cancers that are likely to predict heightened response or resistance to existing or developmental cancer therapies. OncoMap profiles also support a new molecular stratification of pediatric low-grade gliomas based on BRAF mutations that may have immediate clinical impact. Our results demonstrate the clinical feasibility of high-throughput mutation profiling to query a large panel of "actionable" cancer gene mutations. In the future, this type of approach may be incorporated into both cancer epidemiologic studies and clinical decision making to specify the use of many targeted anticancer agents.
    PLoS ONE 01/2009; 4(11):e7887. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Systematic efforts are underway to decipher the genetic changes associated with tumor initiation and progression. However, widespread clinical application of this information is hampered by an inability to identify critical genetic events across the spectrum of human tumors with adequate sensitivity and scalability. Here, we have adapted high-throughput genotyping to query 238 known oncogene mutations across 1,000 human tumor samples. This approach established robust mutation distributions spanning 17 cancer types. Of 17 oncogenes analyzed, we found 14 to be mutated at least once, and 298 (30%) samples carried at least one mutation. Moreover, we identified previously unrecognized oncogene mutations in several tumor types and observed an unexpectedly high number of co-occurring mutations. These results offer a new dimension in tumor genetics, where mutations involving multiple cancer genes may be interrogated simultaneously and in 'real time' to guide cancer classification and rational therapeutic intervention.
    Nature Genetics 04/2007; 39(3):347-51. · 35.21 Impact Factor