Suppression of adaptive responses to targeted cancer therapy by transcriptional repression

Maria Rusan, Kapsok Li, Yvonne Li, Camilla L. Christensen, Brian J. Abraham, Nicholas Kwiatkowski, Kevin A. Buczkowski, Bruno Bockorny, Ting Chen, Shuai Li, Kevin Rhee, Haikuo Zhang, Wankun Chen, Hideki Terai, Tiffany Tavares, Alan L. Leggett, Tianxia Li, Yichen Wang, Tinghu Zhang, Tae Jung KimSook Hee Hong, Neermala Poudel-Neupane, Michael Silkes, Tenny Mudianto, Li Tan, Takeshi Shimamura, Matthew Meyerson, Adam J. Bass, Hideo Watanabe, Nathanael S. Gray, Richard A. Young, Kwok Kin Wong, Peter S. Hammerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Acquired drug resistance is a major factor limiting the effectiveness of targeted cancer therapies. Targeting tumors with kinase inhibitors induces complex adap- tive programs that promote the persistence of a fraction of the original cell population, facilitating the eventual outgrowth of inhibitor-resistant tumor clones. We show that the addition of a newly identified CDK7/12 inhibitor, THZ1, to targeted therapy enhances cell killing and impedes the emergence of drug-resistant cell populations in diverse cellular and in vivo cancer models. We propose that targeted therapy induces a state of transcriptional dependency in a subpopulation of cells poised to become drug tolerant, which THZ1 can exploit by blocking dynamic transcriptional responses, promoting remodeling of enhancers and key signaling outputs required for tumor cell survival in the setting of targeted therapy. These findings suggest that the addition of THZ1 to targeted therapies is a promising broad-based strategy to hinder the emergence of drug-resistant cancer cell populations. SIGNIFICANCE: CDK7/12 inhibition prevents active enhancer formation at genes, promoting resistance emergence in response to targeted therapy, and impedes the engagement of transcriptional programs required for tumor cell survival. CDK7/12 inhibition in combination with targeted cancer therapies may serve as a therapeutic paradigm for enhancing the effectiveness of targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Discovery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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