We have identified previously undiscovered BRAF in-frame deletions near the αC-helix region of the kinase domain in pancreatic, lung, ovarian, and thyroid cancers. These deletions are mutually exclusive with KRAS mutations and occur in 4.21% of KRAS wild-type pancreatic cancer. siRNA knockdown in cells harboring BRAF deletions showed that the MAPK activity and cell growth are BRAF dependent. Structurally, the BRAF deletions are predicted to shorten the β3/αC-helix loop and hinder its flexibility by locking the helix in the active αC-helix-in conformation that favors dimer formation. Expression of L485-P490–deleted BRAF is able to transform NIH/3T3 cells in a BRAF dimer–dependent manner. BRAF homodimer is confirmed to be the dominant RAF dimer by proximity ligation assays in BRAF deletion cells, which are resistant to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib and sensitive to LY3009120, a RAF dimer inhibitor. In tumor models with BRAF deletions, LY3009120 has shown tumor growth regression, whereas vemurafenib is inactive.
SIGNIFICANCE: This study discovered oncogenic BRAF deletions with a distinct activation mechanism dependent on the BRAF dimer formation in tumor cells. LY3009120 is active against these cells and represents a potential treatment option for patients with cancer with these BRAF deletions, or other atypical BRAF mutations where BRAF functions as a dimer. Cancer Discovery; 6(3); 1–16. ©2016 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Discovery Online (http://cancerdiscovery.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received July 27, 2015.
- Revision received December 28, 2015.
- Accepted December 30, 2015.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.