Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is commonly characterized by activating mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase KIT. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the only approved therapy for GIST, and complementary treatment strategies are urgently needed. As GIST lacks oncogene amplification and relies upon an established network of transcription factors, we hypothesized that unique chromatin-modifying enzymes are essential in orchestrating the GIST epigenome. We identified through genome-scale CRISPR screening that MOZ and Menin–MLL chromatin regulatory complexes are cooperative and unique dependencies in GIST. These complexes were enriched at GIST-relevant genes and regulated their transcription. Inhibition of MOZ and Menin–MLL complexes decreased GIST cell proliferation by disrupting interactions with transcriptional/chromatin regulators, such as DOT1L. MOZ and Menin inhibition caused significant reductions in tumor burden in vivo, with superior effects observed with combined Menin and KIT inhibition. These results define unique chromatin regulatory dependencies in GIST and identify potential therapeutic strategies for clinical application.

Significance:

Although many malignancies rely on oncogene amplification, GIST instead depends upon epigenetic regulation of KIT and other essential genes. Utilizing genome-scale CRISPR dependency screens, we identified complementary chromatin-modifying complexes essential to GIST and characterize the consequences of their disruption, elucidating a novel therapeutic approach to this disease.

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