VCAM-1 Upregulation Contributes to Insensitivity of Vemurafenib in BRAF-Mutant Thyroid Cancer

Shitu Chen, Xingyun Su, Xiaoxia Jiang, Tuo Zhang, Irene Min, Yongfeng Ding, Xumeng Wang, Zhuochao Mao, Jiang Cao, Xiaodong Teng, Thomas J. Fahey, Weibin Wang, Lisong Teng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Vemurafenib, an inhibitor of mutant BRAF activity, is a promising anticancer agent for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma. However, it is less effective in BRAF-mutant thyroid cancer, and the reason for this discrepancy is not yet fully elucidated. By RNA sequencing analysis, we identified vascular cell adhesion molecular-1 (VCAM-1) to be highly upregulated in both time- and dose-dependent manners during BRAF inhibition (BRAFi) in a BRAF-mutant papillary thyroid cancer cell line (BCPAP). Cell cytotoxicity and apoptosis assays showed that knockdown of the induced VCAM-1 in BCPAP cells augmented the antitumor effects of vemurafenib, with decreased IC50 values of 1.4 to 0.8 μM. Meanwhile, overexpression of VCAM-1 in a BRAF-mutant anaplastic thyroid cancer cell line (FRO) reduced the sensitivity to vemurafenib, with increased IC50 values of 1.9 to 5.8 μM. Further investigation showed that PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway was activated during BRAFi. Co-treatment with Akt signaling inhibitor MK2206 decreased the induced expression of VCAM-1 during BRAFi. This combination further improved the efficacy of vemurafenib. Moreover, VCAM-1 promoted migration and invasion in thyroid cancer cells in vitro, which was also indicated in thyroid cancer patients. The present study is the first to demonstrate that VCAM-1 is upregulated in thyroid cancer cells treated with vemurafenib and contributes to vemurafenib resistance in BRAF-mutant thyroid cancer cells. Targeting the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway–mediated VCAM-1 response may be an alternative strategy to sensitize BRAF-mutant thyroid cancers to vemurafenib.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-451
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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