Cancer Res. 2013 Sep 1;73(17):5508-18. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-4593. Epub 2013 Jul 19.
A synthetic lethality-based strategy to treat cancers harboring a genetic deficiency in the chromatin remodeling factor BRG1.
The occurrence of inactivating mutations in SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling genes in common cancers has attracted a great deal of interest. However, mechanistic strategies to target tumor cells carrying such mutations are yet to be developed. This study proposes a synthetic-lethality therapy for treating cancers deficient in the SWI/SNF catalytic (ATPase) subunit, BRG1/SMARCA4. The strategy relies upon inhibition of BRM/SMARCA2, another catalytic SWI/SNF subunit with a BRG1-related activity. Immunohistochemical analysis of a cohort of non-small-cell lung carcinomas (NSCLC) indicated that 15.5% (16 of 103) of the cohort, corresponding to preferentially undifferentiated tumors, was deficient in BRG1 expression. All BRG1-deficient cases were negative for alterations in known therapeutic target genes, for example, EGFR and DDR2 gene mutations, ALK gene fusions, or FGFR1 gene amplifications. RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated silencing of BRM suppressed the growth of BRG1-deficient cancer cells relative to BRG1-proficient cancer cells, inducing senescence via activation of p21/CDKN1A. This growth suppression was reversed by transduction of wild-type but not ATPase-deficient BRG1. In support of these in vitro results, a conditional RNAi study conducted in vivo revealed that BRM depletion suppressed the growth of BRG1-deficient tumor xenografts. Our results offer a rationale to develop BRM-ATPase inhibitors as a strategy to treat BRG1/SMARCA4-deficient cancers, including NSCLCs that lack mutations in presently known therapeutic target genes.