Metastasis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with cancer, highlighting the need to identify improved treatment and prevention strategies. Previous observations in preclinical models and tumors from patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a fatal form of lung cancer with high metastatic potential, identified the transcription factor NFIB as a driver of tumor growth and metastasis. However, investigation into the requirement for NFIB activity for tumor growth and metastasis in relevant in vivo models is needed to establish NFIB as a therapeutic target. Here, using conditional gene knockout strategies in genetically engineered mouse models of SCLC, we found that upregulation of NFIB contributes to tumor progression, but NFIB is not required for metastasis. Molecular studies in NFIB wild-type and knockout tumors identified the pioneer transcription factors FOXA1/2 as candidate drivers of metastatic progression. Thus, while NFIB upregulation is a frequent event in SCLC during tumor progression, SCLC tumors can employ NFIB-independent mechanisms for metastasis, further highlighting the plasticity of these tumors.
Small cell lung cancer cells overcome deficiency of the prometastatic oncogene NFIB to gain metastatic potential through various molecular mechanisms, which may represent targets to block progression of this fatal cancer type.