- •Bimodal action: differential consequences of short-versus long-term ERK inhibition
- •ERK inhibitor sensitivity is associated with MYC degradation in vitro and in vivo
- •PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling drives basal resistance to ERK inhibitor treatment
- •Resistance mechanisms are complex and display significant inter-tumor heterogeneity
Induction of compensatory mechanisms and ERK reactivation has limited the effectiveness of Raf and MEK inhibitors in RAS-mutant cancers. We determined that direct pharmacologic inhibition of ERK suppressed the growth of a subset of KRAS-mutant pancreatic cancer cell lines and that concurrent phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibition caused synergistic cell death. Additional combinations that enhanced ERK inhibitor action were also identified. Unexpectedly, long-term treatment of sensitive cell lines caused senescence, mediated in part by MYC degradation and p16 reactivation. Enhanced basal PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling was associated with de novo resistance to ERK inhibitor, as were other protein kinases identified by kinome-wide siRNA screening and a genetic gain-of-function screen. Our findings reveal distinct consequences of inhibiting this kinase cascade at the level of ERK.