Purpose of study. An attractive strategy to improve antitumor treatments is to inflict cytotoxic DNA damage with chemotherapy, and then impede DNA repair by molecular targeting. TR is a new drug characterized by a peculiar mechanism of action: TR traps DNA repair machinery leading to DNA damage, particularly in BRCA1/2-deficient tumors. We speculated that TR might activate PARP1, a key player in DNA-repair, and that subsequent PARP1 inhibition perpetuates TR-induced DNA damage leading to cell death.

Experimental procedures and results. We developed a preclinical platform of 31 cell lines from different histotypes to explore the potential synergy between TR and the PARP1-Is olaparib (OL) and veliparib. We demonstrated that, regardless of BRCA1/2 status, PARP1-Is significantly increased TR activity, but a 15-fold range of sensitivity to the combination was observed. OL was proven the best PARP-I to combine with TR, probably due to its PARP1 trapping activity. In selected experiments, whole-genome expression profiling and GSEA analysis comparing cells displaying high vs. low synergism of the combination (HS-C vs. LS-C) revealed that DDR, G2/M cell cycle checkpoint, and DNA repair pathways were mechanistically involved in TR+OL synergy. TR induced PARP1 activation in 3/6 cell lines and PARP1-Is completely blocked both basal and TR-induced PARP1 activation. OL enhanced DNA damage response in 6/6 cell lines, but unrepairable DNA fragmentation was obtained in cells with high PARP1expr only. In two independent cell panels TR+OL synergism was directly related to PARP1expr both at mRNA (Pearson score r: 0.70, p = 0.00079) and protein level (r: 0.71, p = 0.015). Silencing and overexpression experiments validated the functional role of PARP1expr in determining TR+OL synergism: in HS-C the downmodulation of PARP1expr reduced sensitivity to TR+OL while the overexpression of PARP1 in LS-C rose TR+OL activity to levels observed in HS-C. Subcutaneous, intravenous and orthotopic xenografts of one HS-C (DMR) and one LS-C (SJSA-1) in NOD/SCID mice revealed OL significantly increased antitumor and antimetastatic activity of TR in cells with high PARP1expr only. Finally, we demonstrated that basal PARP1expr PARP1 activation by other cytotoxics with a stronger PARP1 activation observed in cells with high vs. low PARP1expr, regardless of the considered drug.

Conclusions. OL enhances and potentially broaden TR cytotoxicity. TR+OL combination is particularly attractive in tumors harboring high PARP1expr and specific DDR-R gene signatures that might become predictive biomarkers of response. Future clinical validation of TR+OL combination may extend the use of PARP1-Is beyond BRCA1/2 defective tumors. Indeed, the crucial role of PARP1expr is confirmed regardless of tumor histotype and BRCA1/2 status. Further studies of combination between PARP1-Is and other cytotoxics should consider basal PARP1expr and activation after drug exposure.

Citation Format: Ymera Pignochino, Federica Capozzi, Lorenzo D’ambrosio, Carmine Dell’aglio, Marco Basiricò, Paola Boccone, Erica Palesandro, Loretta Gammaitoni, Dario Sangiolo, Maria Serena Benassi, Massimo Aglietta, Giovanni Grignani. PARP1 expression (PARP1expr) drives synergy between PARP1 inhibitors (PARP1-Is) and trabectedin (TR). [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2016 Apr 16-20; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(14 Suppl):Abstract nr 3709.