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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Combined Treatment with MEK and mTOR Inhibitors is Effective in In Vitro and In Vivo Models of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

  • Author(s): Liu, Xianqiong
  • Hu, Junjie
  • Song, Xinhua
  • Utpatel, Kirsten
  • Zhang, Yi
  • Wang, Pan
  • Lu, Xinjun
  • Zhang, Jie
  • Xu, Meng
  • Su, Tao
  • Che, Li
  • Wang, Jingxiao
  • Evert, Matthias
  • Calvisi, Diego F
  • Chen, Xin
  • et al.

Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary liver cancer histotype, characterized by high biological aggressiveness and scarce treatment options. Recently, we have established a clinically relevant murine HCC model by co-expressing activated forms of v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog (AKT) and oncogene c-mesenchymal-epithelial transition (c-Met) proto-oncogenes in the mouse liver via hydrodynamic tail vein injection (AKT/c-MET mice). Tumor cells from these mice demonstrated high activity of the AKT/ mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and Ras/ Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascades, two pathways frequently co-induced in human HCC. Methods: Here, we investigated the therapeutic efficacy of sorafenib, regorafenib, the MEK inhibitor PD901 as well as the pan-mTOR inhibitor MLN0128 in the AKT/c-Met preclinical HCC model. Results: In these mice, neither sorafenib nor regorafenib demonstrated any efficacy. In contrast, administration of PD901 inhibited cell cycle progression of HCC cells in vitro. Combined PD901 and MLN0128 administration resulted in a pronounced growth constraint of HCC cell lines. In vivo, treatment with PD901 or MLN0128 alone moderately slowed HCC growth in AKT/c-MET mice. Importantly, the simultaneous administration of the two drugs led to a stable disease with limited tumor progression in mice. Mechanistically, combined mitogen-activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (MEK) and mTOR inhibition resulted in a stronger cell cycle inhibition and growth arrest both in vitro and in vivo. Conclusions: Our study indicates that combination of MEK and mTOR inhibitors might represent an effective therapeutic approach against human HCC.

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