Hypoxia-Inducible PIM Kinase Expression Promotes Resistance to Antiangiogenic Agents.

Casillas AL, Toth RK, Sainz AG, Singh N, Desai AA, Kraft AS, Warfel NA. 2018. Hypoxia-Inducible PIM Kinase Expression Promotes Resistance to Antiangiogenic Agents. Clin Cancer Res. 24:169–180. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-1318.

Patients develop resistance to antiangiogenic drugs, secondary to changes in the tumor microenvironment, including hypoxia. PIM kinases are prosurvival kinases and their expression increases in hypoxia. The goal of this study was to determine whether targeting hypoxia-induced PIM kinase expression is effective in combination with VEGF-targeting agents. The rationale for this therapeutic approach is based on the fact that antiangiogenic drugs can make tumors hypoxic, and thus more sensitive to PIM inhibitors. Xenograft and orthotopic models of prostate and colon cancer were used to assess the effect of PIM activation on the efficacy of VEGF-targeting agents. IHC and imaging were used to analyze angiogenesis, apoptosis, proliferation, and metastasis. Biochemical studies were performed to characterize the novel signaling pathway linking PIM and HIF1. PIM was upregulated following treatment with anti-VEGF therapies, and PIM1 overexpression reduced the ability of these drugs to disrupt vasculature and block tumor growth. PIM inhibitors reduced HIF1 activity, opposing the shift to a pro-angiogenic gene signature associated with hypoxia. Combined inhibition of PIM and VEGF produced a synergistic antitumor response characterized by decreased proliferation, reduced tumor vasculature, and decreased metastasis. This study describes PIM kinase expression as a novel mechanism of resistance to antiangiogenic agents. Our data provide justification for combining PIM and VEGF inhibitors to treat solid tumors. The unique ability of PIM inhibitors to concomitantly target HIF1 and selectively kill hypoxic tumor cells addresses two major components of tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. .