Cooperative targets of combined mTOR/HDAC inhibition promote MYC degradation

John K. Simmons, Aleksandra M. Michalowski, Benjamin J. Gamache, Wendy DuBois, Jyoti Patel, Ke Zhang, Joy Gary, Shuling Zhang, Snehal Gaikwad, Daniel Connors, Nicholas Watson, Elena Leon, Jin Qiu Chen, W. Michael Kuehl, Maxwell P. Lee, Adriana Zingone, Ola Landgren, Peter Ordentlich, Jing Huang, Beverly A. Mock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Cancer treatments often require combinations of molecularly targeted agents to be effective. mTORi (rapamycin) and HDACi (MS-275/entinostat) inhibitors have been shown to be effective in limiting tumor growth, and here we define part of the cooperative action of this drug combination. More than 60 human cancer cell lines responded synergistically (CI<1) when treated with this drug combination compared with single agents. In addition, a breast cancer patient–derived xenograft, and a BCL-XL plasmacytoma mouse model both showed enhanced responses to the combination compared with single agents. Mice bearing plasma cell tumors lived an average of 70 days longer on combination treatment compared with single agents. A set of 37 genes cooperatively affected (34 downregulated; 3 upregulated) by the combination responded pharmacodynamically in human myeloma cell lines, xenografts, and a P493 model, and were both enriched in tumors, and correlated with prognostic markers in myeloma patient datasets. Genes downregulated by the combination were overexpressed in several untreated cancers (breast, lung, colon, sarcoma, head and neck, myeloma) compared with normal tissues. The MYC/E2F axis, identified by upstream regulator analyses and validated by immunoblots, was significantly inhibited by the drug combination in several myeloma cell lines. Furthermore, 88% of the 34 genes downregulated have MYC-binding sites in their promoters, and the drug combination cooperatively reduced MYC half-life by 55% and increased degradation. Cells with MYC mutations were refractory to the combination. Thus, integrative approaches to understand drug synergy identified a clinically actionable strategy to inhibit MYC/E2F activity and tumor cell growth in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2008-2021
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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