NPJ Precis Oncol. 2018 Mar 7;2(1):7. doi: 10.1038/s41698-018-0051-4. eCollection 2018.
A transcriptional MAPK Pathway Activity Score (MPAS) is a clinically relevant biomarker in multiple cancer types.
Wagle MC#1, Kirouac D#2, Klijn C3, Liu B1, Mahajan S1, Junttila M4, Moffat J5, Merchant M4, Huw L1, Wongchenko M1, Okrah K6, Srinivasan S1, Mounir Z1, Sumiyoshi T1, Haverty PM3, Yauch RL4, Yan Y1, Kabbarah O1, Hampton G1, Amler L1, Ramanujan S2, Lackner MR1, Huang SA1,7.
KRAS- and BRAF-mutant tumors are often dependent on MAPK signaling for proliferation and survival and thus sensitive to MAPK pathway inhibitors. However, clinical studies have shown that MEK inhibitors are not uniformly effective in these cancers indicating that mutational status of these oncogenes does not accurately capture MAPK pathway activity. A number of transcripts are regulated by this pathway and are recurrently identified in genome-based MAPK transcriptional signatures. To test whether the transcriptional output of only 10 of these targets could quantify MAPK pathway activity with potential predictive or prognostic clinical utility, we created a MAPK Pathway Activity Score (MPAS) derived from aggregated gene expression. In vitro, MPAS predicted sensitivity to MAPK inhibitors in multiple cell lines, comparable to or better than larger genome-based statistical models. Bridging in vitro studies and clinical samples, median MPAS from a given tumor type correlated with cobimetinib (MEK inhibitor) sensitivity of cancer cell lines originating from the same tissue type. Retrospective analyses of clinical datasets showed that MPAS was associated with the sensitivity of melanomas to vemurafenib (HR: 0.596) and negatively prognostic of overall or progression-free survival in both adjuvant and metastatic CRC (HR: 1.5 and 1.4), adrenal cancer (HR: 1.7), and HER2+ breast cancer (HR: 1.6). MPAS thus demonstrates potential clinical utility that warrants further exploration.