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    Vemurafenib (PLX4032), small-molecule inhibitor of mutated BRAFV600E protein, has emerged as a potent anti-cancer agent against metastatic melanoma harboring BRAFV600E mutation. Unfortunately, the effect of PLX4032 in the treatment of metastatic BRAF mutated colorectal cancer (CRC) is less potent due to high incidence of fast-developing chemoresistance. It has been demonstrated that sphingolipids are important mediators of chemoresistance to various therapies in colon cancer. In this study, we will explore the role of major regulators of sphingolipid metabolism and signaling in the development of resistance to vemurafenib in BRAF mutant colon cancer cells. The obtained data revealed significantly increased expression levels of activated sphingosine kinases (SphK1 and SphK2) in resistant cells concomitant with increased abundance of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and its precursor sphingosine, which was accompanied by increased expression levels of the enzymes regulating the ceramide salvage pathway, namely ceramide synthases 2 and 6 and acid ceramidase, especially after the exposure to vemurafenib. Pharmacological inhibition of SphK1/SphK2 activities or modulation of ceramide metabolism by exogenous C6-ceramide enhanced the anti-proliferative effect of PLX4032 in resistant RKO cells in a synergistic manner. It is important to note that the inhibition of SphK2 by ABC294640 proved effective at restoring the sensitivity of resistant cells to vemurafenib at the largest number of combinations of sub-toxic drug concentrations with minimal cytotoxicity. Furthermore, the obtained findings revealed that enhanced anti-proliferative, anti-migratory, anti-clonogenic and pro-apoptotic effects of a combination treatment with ABC294640 and PLX4032 relative to either drug alone were accompanied by the inhibition of S1P-regulated AKT activity and concomitant abrogation of AKT-mediated cellular levels of nucleophosmin and translationally-controlled tumour protein. Collectively, our study suggests the possibility of using the combination of ABC294640 and PLX4032 as a novel therapeutic approach to combat vemurafenib resistance in BRAF mutant colon cancer, which warrants additional preclinical validation studies.


    Petra Grbčić, Thomas O Eichmann, Sandra Kraljević Pavelić, Mirela Sedić. The Sphingosine Kinase 2 Inhibitor ABC294640 Restores the Sensitivity of BRAFV600E Mutant Colon Cancer Cells to Vemurafenib by Reducing AKT-Mediated Expression of Nucleophosmin and Translationally-Controlled Tumour Protein. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Oct 05;22(19)

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    PMID: 34639107

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