A recent article in the Clinical Cancer Research Journal discussed a new drug, Ponatinib, that shows therapeutic potential for drug-resistant KIT mutations in GIST. Although it is still early, it bears watching.
Several LRG Research Team members including Dr. Michael C. Heinrich, Dr. Jonathan A. Fletcher and Dr. Sebastian Bauer participated in the study.
Purpose: KIT is the major oncogenic driver of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). Imatinib, sunitinib and regorafenib are approved therapies; however, efficacy is often limited by the acquisition of polyclonal secondary resistance mutations in KIT, with those located in the activation (A) loop (exons 17/18) being particularly problematic. Here we explored the KIT inhibitory activity of ponatinib in preclinical models and describe initial characterization of its activity in GIST patients. Experimental Design: The cellular and in vivo activities of ponatinib, imatinib, sunitinib and regorafenib against mutant KIT were evaluated using an accelerated mutagenesis assay and a panel of engineered and GIST-derived cell lines. The ponatinib-KIT co-structure was also determined. The clinical activity of ponatinib was examined in three GIST patients previously treated with all 3 FDA-approved agents. Results: In engineered and GIST-derived cell lines, ponatinib potently inhibited KIT exon 11 primary mutants and a range of secondary mutants, including those within the A-loop. Ponatinib also induced regression in engineered and GIST-derived tumor models containing these secondary mutations. In a mutagenesis screen, 40 nM ponatinib was sufficient to suppress outgrowth of all secondary mutants except V654A, which was suppressed at 80 nM. This inhibitory profile could be rationalized based on structural analyses. Ponatinib (30 mg daily) displayed encouraging clinical activity in two of three GIST patients. Conclusion: Ponatinib possesses potent activity against most major clinically-relevant KIT mutants, and has demonstrated preliminary evidence of activity in patients with refractory GIST. These data strongly support further evaluation of ponatinib in GIST patients.