Although targeting oncogenic mutations in the BRAF serine/threonine kinase with small molecule inhibitors can lead to significant clinical responses in melanoma, it fails to eradicate tumors in nearly all patients. Successful therapy will be aided by identification of intrinsic mechanisms that protect tumor cells from death. Here, we used a bioinformatics approach to identify drug-able, "driver" oncogenes restricted to tumor versus normal tissues. Applying this method to 88 short-term melanoma cell cultures, we show that the antiapoptotic BCL2 family member BCL2A1 is recurrently amplified in ̄30% of melanomas and is necessary for melanoma growth. BCL2A1 overexpression also promotes melanomagenesis of BRAFimmortalized melanocytes. We find that high-level expression of BCL2A1 is restricted to melanoma due to direct transcriptional control by the melanoma oncogene MITF. Although BRAF inhibitors lead to cell cycle arrest and modest apoptosis, we find that apoptosis is significantly enhanced by suppression of BCL2A1 in melanomas with BCL2A1 or MITF amplification. Moreover, we find that BCL2A1 expression is associated with poorer clinical responses to BRAF pathway inhibitors in melanoma patients. Cotreatment of melanomas with BRAF inhibitors and obatoclax, an inhibitor of BCL2A1 and other BCL2 family members, overcomes intrinsic resistance to BRAF inhibitors in BCL2A1-amplified cells in vitro and in vivo. These studies identify MITF-BCL2A1 as a lineage-specific oncogenic pathway in melanoma and underscore its role for improved response to BRAF-directed therapy.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Mar 12 2013|
ASJC Scopus subject areas