Data-driven prioritization and preclinical evaluation of therapeutic targets in glioblastoma

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Cyrillo G Brahm, U Kulsoom Abdul, Megan Houweling, Myra E van Linde, Tonny Lagerweij, Henk M W Verheul, Bart A Westerman, Annemiek M E Walenkamp, Rudolf S N Fehrmann.

Patients with glioblastoma (GBM) have a dismal prognosis, and there is an unmet need for new therapeutic options. This study aims to identify new therapeutic targets in GBM.

mRNA expression data of patient-derived GBM (n = 1,279) and normal brain tissue (n = 46) samples were collected from GEO and TCGA. Functional genomic mRNA (FGmRNA) profiling was applied to capture the downstream effects of genomic alterations on gene expression levels. Next, class comparison between GBM and normal brain tissue was performed. Significantly upregulated genes in GBM were further prioritized based on 1) known interactions with anti-neoplastic drugs, 2) current drug development status in humans, and 3) association with biologic pathways known to be involved in GBM. Antineoplastic agents against prioritized targets were validated in vitro and in vivo.

We identified 712 significantly upregulated genes in GBM compared to normal brain tissue, of which 27 have a known interactions with antineoplastic agents. 17 out of the 27 genes, including EGFR and VEGFA, have been clinically evaluated in GBM with limited efficacy. For the remaining ten genes, RRM2, MAPK9 (JNK2, SAPK1a), and XIAP play a role in GBM development. We demonstrated for the MAPK9 inhibitor RGB-286638 a viability loss in multiple GBM cell culture models. Although no overall survival benefit was observed in vivo, there were indications that RGB-286638 may delay tumor growth.

The MAPK9 inhibitor RGB-286638 showed promising in vitro results. Furthermore, in vivo target engagement studies and combination therapies with this compound warrant further exploration.