STK33 kinase inhibitor BRD-8899 has no effect on KRAS-dependent cancer cell viability

Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, 7 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 02/2012; 109(8):2860-5. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1120589109
Source: PubMed


Approximately 30% of human cancers harbor oncogenic gain-of-function mutations in KRAS. Despite interest in KRAS as a therapeutic target, direct blockade of KRAS function with small molecules has yet to be demonstrated. Based on experiments that lower mRNA levels of protein kinases, KRAS-dependent cancer cells were proposed to have a unique requirement for the serine/threonine kinase STK33. Thus, it was suggested that small-molecule inhibitors of STK33 might have therapeutic benefit in these cancers. Here, we describe the development of selective, low nanomolar inhibitors of STK33's kinase activity. The most potent and selective of these, BRD8899, failed to kill KRAS-dependent cells. While several explanations for this result exist, our data are most consistent with the view that inhibition of STK33's kinase activity does not represent a promising anti-KRAS therapeutic strategy.

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    • "Despite this high prevalence pharmacological means to inhibit KRAS have yet to emerge. Small molecule inhibition of STK33 in vitro did not show sufficient effect on cancer cell-viability, however, leading the authors to speculate on an interaction between mutant KRAS and STK33 independent of its kinase activity [23]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a locus on chromosome 11p15.5, closely associated with serine/threonine kinase 33 (STK33), to be associated with body mass. STK33, a relatively understudied protein, has been linked to KRAS mutation-driven cancers and explored as a potential antineoplastic drug target. The strongest association with body mass observed at this loci in GWAS was rs4929949, a single nucleotide polymorphism located within intron 1 of the gene encoding STK33. The functional implications of rs4929949 or related variants have not been explored as of yet. We have genotyped rs4929949 in two cohorts, an obesity case-control cohort of 991 Swedish children, and a cross-sectional cohort of 2308 Greek school children. We found that the minor allele of rs4929949 was associated with obesity in the cohort of Swedish children and adolescents (OR = 1.199 (95%CI: 1.002-1.434), p = 0.047), and with body mass in the cross-sectional cohort of Greek children (β = 0.08147 (95% CI: 0.1345-0.1618), p = 0.021). We observe the effects of rs4929949 on body mass to be detectable already at adolescence. Subsequent analysis did not detect any association of rs4929949 to phenotypic measurements describing body adiposity or to metabolic factors such as insulin levels, triglycerides and insulin resistance (HOMA).
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    • "Like shRNA-mediated knockdown, HSP90 inhibitors target mutant KRAS-driven cancer cells through depletion of the entire STK33 protein. This property may be of particular relevance in view of recent observations that selective inhibition of STK33 enzymatic activity does not kill certain KRAS mutant cancer cell lines (Babij et al., 2011; Luo et al., 2012), indicating that nonkinase activities of STK33 may be responsible for its observed essentiality in RNAi-based studies, an important disparity that has also been reported for Aurora B and PI3 kinases (Weiss et al., 2007). More generally, our results emphasize the need for predictive markers of benefit from HSP90 inhibitors. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous efforts to develop drugs that directly inhibit the activity of mutant KRAS, the most commonly mutated human oncogene, have not been successful. Cancer cells driven by mutant KRAS require expression of the serine/threonine kinase STK33 for their viability and proliferation, identifying STK33 as a context-dependent therapeutic target. However, specific strategies for interfering with the critical functions of STK33 are not yet available. Here, using a mass spectrometry-based screen for STK33 protein interaction partners, we report that the HSP90/CDC37 chaperone complex binds to and stabilizes STK33 in human cancer cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of HSP90, using structurally divergent small molecules currently in clinical development, induced proteasome-mediated degradation of STK33 in human cancer cells of various tissue origin in vitro and in vivo, and triggered apoptosis preferentially in KRAS mutant cells in an STK33-dependent manner. Furthermore, HSP90 inhibitor treatment impaired sphere formation and viability of primary human colon tumor-initiating cells harboring mutant KRAS. These findings provide mechanistic insight into the activity of HSP90 inhibitors in KRAS mutant cancer cells, indicate that the enhanced requirement for STK33 can be exploited to target mutant KRAS-driven tumors, and identify STK33 depletion through HSP90 inhibition as a biomarker-guided therapeutic strategy with immediate translational potential.
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