BET and BRAF inhibitors act synergistically against BRAF-mutant melanoma

Luca Paoluzzi, Douglas Hanniford, Elena Sokolova, Iman Osman, Farbod Darvishian, Jinhua Wang, James E. Bradner, Eva Hernando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Despite major advances in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, treatment failure is still inevitable in most cases. Manipulation of key epigenetic regulators, including inhibition of Bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) family members impairs cell proliferation in vitro and tumor growth in vivo in different cancers, including melanoma. Here, we investigated the effect of combining the BET inhibitor JQ1 with the BRAF inhibitor Vemurafenib in in vitro and in vivo models of BRAF-mutant melanoma. We performed cytotoxicity and apoptosis assays, and a xenograft mouse model to determine the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of JQ1 in combination with Vemurafenib against BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines. Further, to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of combined treatment, we conducted antibody arrays of in vitro drug-treated cell lines and RNA sequencing of drug-treated xenograft tumors. The combination of JQ1 and Vemurafenib acted synergistically in BRAF-mutant cell lines, resulting in marked apoptosis in vitro, with upregulation of proapoptotic proteins. In vivo, combination treatment suppressed tumor growth and significantly improved survival compared to either drug alone. RNA sequencing of tumor tissues revealed almost four thousand genes that were uniquely modulated by the combination, with several anti-apoptotic genes significantly down-regulated. Collectively, our data provide a rationale for combined BET and BRAF inhibition as a novel strategy for the treatment of melanoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages11
JournalCancer medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Dr. Adriana Heguy and Igor Dolgalev (Genomics Technology Center) for the RNA sequencing experiments and the New York University Histopathology and Immunohistochemistry Cores for the tissue processing and histologic stainings. This work was partially supported by the Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA016087, and the “NIH/ORIP S10OD01058”, at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • BET inhibition
  • BRAF inhibition
  • JQ1
  • Melanoma
  • Vemurafenib


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