Despite advances in multimodal treatment, neuroblastoma (NB) is often fatal for children with high-risk disease and many survivors need to cope with long-term side effects from high-dose chemotherapy and radiation. To identify new therapeutic targets, we performed a siRNA screen of the druggable genome combined with a small molecule screen of 465 compounds targeting 39 different mechanisms of actions in four NB cell lines. We identified 58 genes as targets, including AURKB, in at least one cell line. In the drug screen, aurora kinase inhibitors (nine molecules) and in particular the AURKB-selective compound, barasertib, were the most discriminatory with regard to sensitivity for MYCN-amplified cell lines. In an expanded panel of NB cell lines, those with MYCN amplification and wild-type TP53 were the most sensitive to low nanomolar concentrations of barasertib. Inhibition of the AURKB kinase activity resulted in decreased phosphorylation of its known target histone H3, and upregulation of p53 pathway in MYCN-amplified NB cells with wild-type TP53. Both wild-type and p53-mutant MYCN-amplified cell lines arrested in G2/M phase upon AURKB inhibition. Additionally, barasertib induced endoreduplication and apoptosis. Treatment of MYCN-amplified/TP53 wild-type neuroblastoma xenografts resulted in profound growth inhibition and tumor regression. Therefore, aurora B kinase inhibition is highly effective in aggressive neuroblastoma and warrants further investigation in clinical trials.

Citation Format: Dominik Bogen, Jun S. Wei, David O. Azorsa, Pinar Ormanoglu, Eugen Buehler, Rajarshi Guha, Jonathan M. Keller, Lesley A. Mathews Griner, Marc Ferrer, Young K. Song, Hongling Liao, Arnulfo Mendoza, Berkley E. Gryder, Sivasish Sindri, Jianbin He, Xinyu Wen, Xinyu Wen, Shile Zhang, John F. Shern, Marielle E. Yohe, Sabine Taschner-Mandl, Jason Shohet, Craig J. Thomas, Scott E. Martin, Peter F. Ambros, Javed Khan. Combined siRNA and small molecule screening identifies Aurora B kinase as an effective target in MYCN-driven neuroblastoma. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Advances in Pediatric Cancer Research: From Mechanisms and Models to Treatment and Survivorship; 2015 Nov 9-12; Fort Lauderdale, FL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(5 Suppl):Abstract nr B31.