Background: The CDK4/6 inhibitors have emerged as standard first- or second-line regimens in combination with an antiestrogen for patients with HR+/HER2- MBC. While these agents convey significant clinical benefit in many patients, intrinsic resistance can occur and, in patients who respond, acquired resistance is unfortunately inevitable. Despite their widespread use, we have limited insight into the molecular mechanisms governing response and resistance to these agents.
Methods: Whole exome sequencing (WES) was performed on metastatic tumor biopsies from 58 patients (pts) with HR+/HER2- MBC who received a CDK4/6 inhibitor with or without an antiestrogen at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, including 7 pts with pre/post-exposure biopsy pairs. Among these biopsies, 69.5% were characterized as resistant (intrinsic or acquired) and 30.5% were characterized as sensitive. To validate putative resistance mediators identified in patient samples, HR+/HER2- breast cancer cells were modified via CRISPR knockout or lentiviral overexpression. Sensitivity of these cells to antiestrogens and CDK4/6i was interrogated via cell-titer-glo assay. In parallel, HR+/HER2- breast cancer cells were cultured to resistance in the presence of an escalating dose of CDK4/6i. Derivative cell lines were subjected to western blotting in an effort to interrogate the putative resistance mediators identified in pts. Novel dependencies were identified in these derivative cell lines via treatment with targeted therapeutic agents in vitro.
Results: WES of tumors with CDK4/6i exposure revealed candidate mechanisms of resistance including biallelic RB1 disruption (n=4, 10%) and activating events in AKT1 (n=5, 12.5%), RAS (n=4, 10%), aurora kinase A (AURKA, n=11, 27.5%), and cyclin E2 (CCNE2, n=6, 15%). Convergent evolution toward biallelic RB1 disruption was identified in a single patient with one pre- and two post-exposure biopsies, while acquisition of AKT1 mutation and amplification was identified in two separate instances. Knockout of RB1 and overexpression of AKT1, KRAS G12D, AURKA, and CCNE2 provoked CDK4/6i and antiestrogen resistance in vitro. Breast cancer cells cultured to resistance in CDK4/6i demonstrated concordant acquisition of RB1 downregulation, RAS/ERK activation, AURKA overexpression, and CCNE2 overexpression. Derivative resistant cell lines with RB1 loss or AURKA gain demonstrated enhanced sensitivity to a novel AURKA inhibitor (LY3295668), while cells with RAS activation were highly sensitive to ERK inhibition (via LY3214996). CCNE2-overexpressing cells were highly sensitive to prexasertib, a CHEK1 inhibitor.
Conclusions: The genomic landscape of resistance to CDK4/6i is heterogeneous with multiple potential mediators that play well-established roles in cell division and oncogenic signal transduction. We present novel mechanisms of clinical resistance including activation of AKT1 and RAS family oncogenes as well as amplification of AURKA and CCNE2. These drivers were able to provoke resistance to CDK4/6i in vitro. Finally, in each case, a novel dependency was identified which is readily translatable into the clinic. These results underscore the potential of next-generation sequencing as a critical tool to enable identification of resistance mediators, while also suggesting that the presence of specific genomic alterations may define new therapeutic opportunities in CDK4/6i-resistant HR+ MBC.
Citation Format: Seth A. Wander, Ofir Cohen, Xueqian Gong, Gabriela N. Johnson, Jorge Buendia-Buendia, Maxwell Lloyd, Dewey Kim, Flora Luo, Pingping Mao, Karla Helvie, Kailey Kowalski, Utthara Nayar, Stephen Parsons, Ricardo Martinez, Lacey Litchfield, Xiang Ye, Chun Ping Yu, Valerie Jansen, Levi A. Garraway, Eric P. Winer, Sara M. Tolaney, Nancy U. Lin, Sean Buchanan, Nikhil Wagle. The genomic landscape of intrinsic and acquired resistance to cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i) in patients with hormone receptor-positive (HR+)/HER2- metastatic breast cancer (MBC) [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2019 Dec 10-14; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2020;80(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PD2-09.