Selective CDK7 Inhibition Suppresses Cell Cycle Progression and MYC Signaling While Enhancing Apoptosis in Therapy-resistant Estrogen Receptor- positive Breast Cancer

Cristina Guarducci, Agostina Nardone, Douglas Russo, Zsuzsanna Nagy, Capucine Heraud, Albert Grinshpun, Qi Zhang, Allegra Freelander, Mathew Joseph Leventhal, Avery Feit, Gabriella Cohen Feit, Ariel Feiglin, Weihan Liu, Francisco Hermida-Prado, Nikolas Kesten, Wen Ma, Carmine De Angelis, Antonio Morlando, Madison O'Donnell, Sergey NaumenkoShixia Huang, Quang Dé Nguyen, Ying Huang, Luca Malorni, Johann S. Bergholz, Jean J. Zhao, Ernest Fraenkel, Elgene Lim, Rachel Schiff, Geoffrey I. Shapiro, Rinath Jeselsohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Resistance to endocrine therapy (ET) and CDK4/6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i) is a clinical challenge in estrogen receptor (ER)- positive (ER ) breast cancer. Cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) is a candidate target in endocrine-resistant ER breast cancer models and selectiveCDK7inhibitors (CDK7i) are in clinical development for the treatment of ER breast cancer. Nonetheless, the precisemechanisms responsible for the activity of CDK7i in ER breast cancer remain elusive. Herein, we sought to unravel these mechanisms. Experimental Design: We conducted multi-omic analyses in ER breast cancer models in vitro and in vivo, including models with different genetic backgrounds. We also performed genomewide CRISPR/Cas9 knockout screens to identify potential therapeutic vulnerabilities in CDK4/6i-resistant models. Results: We found that the on-target antitumor effects of CDK7 inhibition in ER breast cancer are in part p53 dependent, and involve cell cycle inhibition and suppression of c-Myc. Moreover, CDK7 inhibition exhibited cytotoxic effects, distinctive from the cytostatic nature of ET and CDK4/6i. CDK7 inhibition resulted in suppression of ER phosphorylation at S118; however, long-term CDK7 inhibition resulted in increased ER signaling, supporting the combination of ET with a CDK7i. Finally, genome-wide CRISPR/ Cas9 knockout screens identified CDK7 and MYC signaling as putative vulnerabilities in CDK4/6i resistance, and CDK7 inhibition effectively inhibited CDK4/6i-resistant models. Conclusions: Taken together, these findings support the clinical investigation of selective CDK7 inhibition combined with ET to overcome treatment resistance in ER breast cancer. In addition, our study highlights the potential of increased c-Myc activity and intact p53 as predictors of sensitivity to CDK7i-based treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1889-1905
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Volume30
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2024
Externally publishedYes

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