Decitabine, a cancer therapeutic that inhibits DNA methylation, produces variable antitumor response rates in patients with solid tumors that might be leveraged clinically with identification of a predictive biomarker. In this study, we profiled the response of human ovarian, melanoma, and breast cancer cells treated with decitabine, finding that RAS/MEK/ERK pathway activation and DNMT1 expression correlated with cytotoxic activity. Further, we showed that KRAS genomic status predicted decitabine sensitivity in low-grade and high-grade serous ovarian cancer cells. Pretreatment with decitabine decreased the cytotoxic activity of MEK inhibitors in KRAS-mutant ovarian cancer cells, with reciprocal downregulation of DNMT1 and MEK/ERK phosphorylation. In parallel with these responses, decitabine also upregulated the proapoptotic BCL-2 family member BNIP3, which is known to be regulated by MEK and ERK, and heightened the activity of proapoptotic small-molecule navitoclax, a BCL-2 family inhibitor. In a xenograft model of KRAS-mutant ovarian cancer, combining decitabine and navitoclax heightened antitumor activity beyond administration of either compound alone. Our results define the RAS/MEK/DNMT1 pathway as a determinant of sensitivity to DNA methyltransferase inhibition, specifically implicating KRAS status as a biomarker of drug response in ovarian cancer.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.