Exploring the In Vitro and In Vivo Therapeutic Potential of BRAF and MEK Inhibitor Combination in NRAS-Mutated Melanoma

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Introduction: Patients with NRAS-mutant metastatic melanoma often have an aggressive disease requiring a fast-acting, effective therapy. The MEK inhibitor binimetinib shows an overall response rate of 15% in patients with NRAS-mutant melanoma, providing a backbone for combination strategies. Our previous studies demonstrated that in NRAS-mutant melanoma, the antitumor activity of the MEK inhibitor binimetinib was significantly potentiated by the BRAFV600E/K inhibitor encorafenib through the induction of ER stress, leading to melanoma cell death by apoptotic mechanisms. Encorafenib combined with binimetinib was well tolerated in a phase III trial showing potent antitumor activity in BRAF-mutant melanoma, making a rapid evaluation in NRAS-mutant melanoma imminently feasible. These data provide a mechanistic rationale for the evaluation of binimetinib combined with encorafenib in preclinical and clinical studies on NRAS-mutant metastatic melanoma. Methods: The combination of BRAFi plus MEKi was tested in a monolayer culture of patient-derived cell lines and in corresponding patient-derived tissue slice cultures of NRAS-mutant melanoma. To investigate the treatment in vivo, NSG (NOD. Cg-Prkdcscid Il2rgtm1Wjl/SzJ) mice were subcutaneously injected with three different BRAF wild-type melanoma models harboring oncogenic NRAS mutations and treated orally with encorafenib (6 mg/kg body weight, daily) with or without binimetinib (8 mg/kg body weight, twice daily). In parallel, an individual healing attempt was carried out by treating one patient with an NRAS-mutated tumor. Results: Encorafenib was able to enhance the inhibitory effect on cell growth of binimetinib only in the cell line SKMel147 in vitro. It failed to enhance the apoptotic effect found in two other NRAS-mutated cell lines. Encorafenib led to a hyperactivation of ERK which could be reduced with the combinational treatment. In two of the three patient-derived tissue slice culture models of NRAS-mutant melanomas, a slight tendency of a combinatorial effect was seen which was not significant. Encorafenib showed a slight induction of the ER stress genes ATF4, CHOP, and NUPR1. The combinational treatment was able to enhance this effect, but not significantly. In the mouse model, the combination therapy of encorafenib with binimetinib resulted in reduced tumor growth compared to the control and encorafenib groups; however, the best effect in terms of tumor growth inhibition was measured in the binimetinib therapy group. The therapy showed no effect in an individual healing attempt for a patient suffering from metastatic, therapy-refractory NRAS-mutated melanoma. Conclusion: In in vitro and ex vivo settings, the combination therapy was observed to elicit a response; however, it did not amplify the efficacy observed with binimetinib alone, whereas in a patient, the combinational treatment remained ineffective. The preclinical in vivo data showed no increased combinatorial effect. However, the in vivo effect of binimetinib as monotherapy was unexpectedly high in the tested regimen. Nevertheless, binimetinib proved to be advantageous in the treatment of melanoma in vivo and led to high rates of apoptosis in vitro; hence, it still seems to be a good base for combination with other substances in the treatment of patients with NRAS-mutant melanoma.


PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Dez. 2023

Externe IDs

ORCID /0000-0003-4340-0402/work/150329106
ORCID /0000-0003-4340-9706/work/150330460


ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete


  • binimetinib, BRAF inhibitor, cancer, encorafenib, malignant melanoma, NRAS-mutated, PDX (patient-derived xenograft) mouse model