Drug combinations acting synergistically to kill cancer cells have become increasingly important in melanoma as an approach to manage the recurrent resistant disease. Protein kinase B (AKT) is a major target in this disease but its inhibitors are not effective clinically, which is a major concern. Targeting AKT in combination with WEE1 (mitotic inhibitor kinase) seems to have potential to make AKT-based therapeutics effective clinically. Since agents targeting AKT and WEE1 have been tested individually in the clinic, the quickest way to move the drug combination to patients would be to combine these agents sequentially, enabling the use of existing phase I clinical trial toxicity data. Therefore, a rapid preclinical approach is needed to evaluate whether simultaneous or sequential drug treatment has maximal therapeutic efficacy, which is based on a mechanistic rationale. To develop this approach, melanoma cell lines were treated with AKT inhibitor AZD5363 [4-amino-N-[(1S)-1-(4-chlorophenyl)-3-hydroxypropyl]-1-(7H-pyrrolo[2,3-d]-pyrimidin-4-yl)piperidine-4-carboxamide] and WEE1 inhibitor AZD1775 [2-allyl-1-(6-(2-hydroxypropan-2-yl)pyridin-2-yl)-6-((4-(4-methylpiperazin-1-yl)phenyl)amino)-1H-pyrazolo[3,4-d]pyrimidin-3(2H)-one] using simultaneous and sequential dosing schedules. Simultaneous treatment synergistically reduced melanoma cell survival and tumor growth. In contrast, sequential treatment was antagonistic and had a minimal tumor inhibitory effect compared with individual agents. Mechanistically, simultaneous targeting of AKT and WEE1 enhanced deregulation of the cell cycle and DNA damage repair pathways by modulating transcription factors p53 and forkhead box M1, which was not observed with sequential treatment. Thus, this study identifies a rapid approach to assess the drug combinations with a mechanistic basis for selection, which suggests that combining AKT and WEE1 inhibitors is needed for maximal efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-196
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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