No effective systemic treatment is available for patients with unresectable, recurrent, or metastatic mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC), the most common salivary gland malignancy. MEC is frequently associated with a t(11;19)(q14-21;p12-13) translocation that creates a CRTC1-MAML2 fusion gene. The CRTC1-MAML2 fusion exhibited transforming activity in vitro; however, whether it serves as an oncogenic driver for MEC establishment and maintenance in vivo remains unknown. Here, we show that doxycycline-induced CRTC1-MAML2 knockdown blocked the growth of established MEC xenografts, validating CRTC1-MAML2 as a therapeutic target. We further generated a conditional transgenic mouse model and observed that Cre-induced CRTC1-MAML2 expression caused 100% penetrant formation of salivary gland tumors resembling histological and molecular characteristics of human MEC. Molecular analysis of MEC tumors revealed altered p16-CDK4/6-RB pathway activity as a potential cooperating event in promoting CRTC1-MAML2–induced tumorigenesis. Cotargeting of aberrant p16-CDK4/6-RB signaling and CRTC1-MAML2 fusion–activated AREG/EGFR signaling with the respective CDK4/6 inhibitor Palbociclib and EGFR inhibitor Erlotinib produced enhanced antitumor responses in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, this study provides direct evidence for CRTC1-MAML2 as a key driver for MEC development and maintenance and identifies a potentially novel combination therapy with FDA-approved EGFR and CDK4/6 inhibitors as a potential viable strategy for patients with MEC.
Zirong Chen, Wei Ni, Jian-Liang Li, Shuibin Lin, Xin Zhou, Yuping Sun, Jennifer W. Li, Marino E. Leon, Maria D. Hurtado, Sergei Zolotukhin, Chen Liu, Jianrong Lu, James D. Griffin, Frederic J. Kaye, Lizi Wu