Research ArticleCancer

PUMA and BIM Are Required for Oncogene Inactivation–Induced Apoptosis

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Science Signaling  26 Mar 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 268, pp. ra20
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003483

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Using Addiction Against Cancer

Oncogene-addicted cancer cells depend on a particular oncogenic protein for survival and die when the oncogenic protein is inactivated. For example, lung cancers with an abnormally active form of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and breast cancers with amplification of the gene encoding the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) regress when exposed to drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors that block the activity of these receptors. Bean et al. analyzed breast and lung cancer cell lines treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors and mice in which EGFRs were inactivated by genetic ablation. They found that two signaling pathways, the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)–AKT and mitogen-activated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinase (MEK)–extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) pathways, were inactivated, resulting in an increase in the abundance of PUMA and BIM, two proteins that promote cell death. Furthermore, cancer cell lines resistant to tyrosine kinase inhibitors were killed by the combination of a PI3K inhibitor and a drug that inhibits antiapoptotic proteins. Thus, pharmacologically enhancing the death pathway may overcome or prevent resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors.