Kinome-Wide RNA Interference Screen Reveals a Role for PDK1 in Acquired Resistance to CDK4/6 Inhibition in ER-Positive Breast Cancer

Acquired resistance to cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) small-molecule inhibitors in breast cancer arises through mechanisms that are yet uncharacterized. In this study, we used a kinome-wide siRNA screen to identify kinases that, when downregulated, yield sensitivity to the CDK4/6 inhibitor ribociclib. In this manner, we identified 3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase 1 (PDK1) as a key modifier of ribociclib sensitivity in estrogen receptor–positive MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Pharmacologic inhibition of PDK1 with GSK2334470 in combination with ribociclib or palbociclib, another CDK4/6 inhibitor, synergistically inhibited proliferation and increased apoptosis in a panel of ER-positive breast cancer cell lines. Ribociclib-resistant breast cancer cells selected by chronic drug exposure displayed a relative increase in the levels of PDK1 and activation of the AKT pathway. Analysis of these cells revealed that CDK4/6 inhibition failed to induce cell-cycle arrest or senescence. Mechanistic investigations showed that resistant cells coordinately upregulated expression of cyclins A, E, and D1, activated phospho-CDK2, and phospho-S477/T479 AKT. Treatment with GSK2334470 or the CDK2 inhibitor dinaciclib was sufficient to reverse these events and to restore the sensitivity of ribociclib-resistant cells to CDK4/6 inhibitors. Ribociclib, in combination with GSK2334470 or the PI3Kα inhibitor alpelisib, decreased xenograft tumor growth more potently than each drug alone. Taken together, our results highlight a role for the PI3K–PDK1 signaling pathway in mediating acquired resistance to CDK4/6 inhibitors. Cancer Res; 77(9); 1–12. ©2017 AACR.