Novel mechanisms of resistance to vemurafenib in melanoma – V600E B-Raf reversion and switching VEGF-A splice isoform expression

N Beazley Long, Kevin Gaston, S J Harper, A Orlando, DO Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Targeting activating mutations in the proto-oncogene B-Raf, in melanoma, has led to increases in progression free survival. Treatment with vemurafenib, which inhibits the most common activating-mutated form of B-Raf (B-RafV600E), eventually results in resistance to therapy. VEGF-A is the principal driver of angiogenesis in primary and metastatic lesions. The bioactivity of VEGF-A is dependent upon alternative RNA splicing and pro-angiogenic isoforms of VEGF-A are upregulated in many disease states dependent upon angiogenesis, including cancers. Using techniques including RT-PCR, Western blotting, ELISA and luciferase reporter assays, the effect of vemurafenib on proliferation, ERK1/2 phosphorylation and the levels of pro- and anti-angiogenic VEGF-A isoforms was investigated in melanoma cell types expressing either wild-type B-Raf or B-RafV600E, including a primary melanoma culture derived from a highly vascularised and active nodule taken from a patient with a V600E mutant melanoma. The primary melanoma culture was characterised and found to have reverted to wild-type B-Raf. In B-RafV600E A375 cells ERK1/2 phosphorylation, pro-angiogenic VEGF-A mRNA, total VEGF-A protein expression and VEGF-A 3’UTR activity were all decreased in a concentration-dependent manner by vemurafenib. Conversely vemurafenib treatment of wild-type B-Raf cells significantly increased ERK1/2 phosphorylation, pro-angiogenic VEGF-A mRNA and total VEGF-A expression in a concentration-dependent manner. A switch to pro-angiogenic VEGF-A isoforms, with a concomitant upregulation of expression by increasing VEGF-A mRNA stability, may be an additional oncogenic and pathological mechanism in B-RafV600E melanomas, which promotes tumor-associated angiogenesis and melanoma-genesis. We have also identified the genetic reversal of B-RafV600E to wild-type in an active melanoma nodule taken from a V600E-positive patient and continued vemurafenib treatment for this patient is likely to have had a detrimental effect by promoting B-RafWT activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-441
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Cancer Research
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015


  • Melanoma
  • vemurafenib
  • A375
  • 92.1
  • VEGF-A
  • VEGF-Axxxb
  • mechanism of resistance


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