The RAS oncogene is the most elusive cancer therapy target yet identified. Mutant KRAS (mut-KRAS) is the predominant oncogenic form of RAS, and is present in 17-25% of all human cancers where it plays a critical role in driving cancer cell growth and resistance to therapy where it plays a critical role in driving cancer cell growth and resistance to therapy. Its effects are so powerful that it overrides the beneficial effects of many of the new molecularly targeted signaling agents in use for cancer today. Despite numerous attempts over the last two decades there is still no effective therapy for mut-KRAS. KRAS mutations are limited to a few sites, primarily codons 12 and 13, where different base transversions and transitions lead to different amino acid substitutions which vary in different tumor types. Understanding the signaling mechanisms activated by the different forms of mut-KRAS and finding agents to inhibit mut-KRAS signaling is arguably the most important unmet needs in cancer therapy today. New findings offer the potential of developing therapies that selectively inhibit mut-KRAS. The hypothesis upon which the studies are based is that: """"""""Different forms of mut-KRAS activate different downstream signaling pathways regulating cancer cell growth and survival, leading to differences in patient response to therapy. Knowing which pathways are activated will allow selective inhibition of signaling by the different forms of mut-KRAS leading to improved therapy for mut-KRAS tumors. New evidence we present shows that targeting proteins of the mut-KRAS signaling nanocluster with small molecules can lead to selective inhibition of mut-KRAS but not wt-KRAS signaling and cell growth. Understanding how these nanocluster proteins work in regulating mut- and wt-KRAS activity will provide a window of opportunity for new therapeutic approaches for selective inhibition of mut-KRAS """""""". The overall objectives of our study are to gain a greater understanding of the structural and cellular mechanisms of signaling by different forms of mut-KRAS that could explain differences in patient response and resistance to therapy;and to investigate the mechanism of a new small molecule probe we have developed that binds to the RAS nanocluster to selectively inhibit mut-KRAS but not wt-KRAS signaling and cell growth.
The Specific Aims are;1) To investigate which of multiple KRAS downstream signaling pathways are activated by different mut-KRAS amino acid substitutions and the structural basis for the activation;2) To investigate which signaling pathways are essential for mut-KRAS oncogene addiction and/or resistance to therapy;and 3) To investigate the regulation of mut-KRAS signaling by the RAS nanocluster and the mechanism of a small molecule nanocluster inhibitor that selectively inhibits mut-KRAS but not wt-KRAS cell proliferation.

Public Health Relevance

An estimated 320,000 individuals diagnosed with cancer in the US this year will carry mutant KRAS (mut- KRAS) in their tumor. There is no effective treatment for mut-KRAS;however, an agent with even a modest effect on mut-KRAS activity overall, or one that exerts selective inhibition of a subset of mut-RAS could have a major impact upon cancer patient survival and suffering. Improved knowledge of mut-KRAS signaling suggests that different forms of mut-KRAS have different consequences for patient response to treatment. We will investigate how these different mut-KRAS produce their effect, how this effects drug response and will use a pharmacological probe we have developed to investigate the potential for selective mut-KRAS therapy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Basic Mechanisms of Cancer Therapeutics Study Section (BMCT)
Program Officer
Forry, Suzanne L
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
La Jolla
United States
Zip Code
Grandjean, Geoffrey; De Jong, Petrus; James, Brian et al. (2016) Definition of a Novel Feed-Forward Mechanism for Glycolysis-HIF1? Signaling in Hypoxic Tumors Highlights Aldolase A as a Therapeutic Target. Cancer Res 76:4259-4269
de Jong, Petrus R; Taniguchi, Koji; Harris, Alexandra R et al. (2016) ERK5 signalling rescues intestinal epithelial turnover and tumour cell proliferation upon ERK1/2 abrogation. Nat Commun 7:11551
Kopetz, Scott; Desai, Jayesh; Chan, Emily et al. (2015) Phase II Pilot Study of Vemurafenib in Patients With Metastatic BRAF-Mutated Colorectal Cancer. J Clin Oncol 33:4032-8
Bailey, Ann M; Zhan, Le; Maru, Dipen et al. (2014) FXR silencing in human colon cancer by DNA methylation and KRAS signaling. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 306:G48-58
Cortez, Maria Angelica; Valdecanas, David; Zhang, Xiaochun et al. (2014) Therapeutic delivery of miR-200c enhances radiosensitivity in lung cancer. Mol Ther 22:1494-1503
Bhardwaj, Vikas; Cascone, Tina; Cortez, Maria Angelica et al. (2013) Modulation of c-Met signaling and cellular sensitivity to radiation: potential implications for therapy. Cancer 119:1768-75
Ihle, Nathan T; Byers, Lauren A; Kim, Edward S et al. (2012) Effect of KRAS oncogene substitutions on protein behavior: implications for signaling and clinical outcome. J Natl Cancer Inst 104:228-39