• Replication catastrophe is responsible for intrinsic PAR glycohydrolase inhibitor-sensitivity in patient-derived ovarian cancer models

      Coulson-Gilmer, Camilla; Morgan, Robert D.; Nelson, Louisa; Barnes, Bethany M.; Tighe, Anthony; Wardenaar, René; Spierings, Diana C. J.; Schlecht, Helene; Burghel, George J.; Foijer, Floris; et al. (BioMed Central, 2021-10-16)
      Abstract: Background: Patients with ovarian cancer often present at advanced stage and, following initial treatment success, develop recurrent drug-resistant disease. PARP inhibitors (PARPi) are yielding unprecedented survival benefits for women with BRCA-deficient disease. However, options remain limited for disease that is platinum-resistant and/or has inherent or acquired PARPi-resistance. PARG, the PAR glycohydrolase that counterbalances PARP activity, is an emerging target with potential to selectively kill tumour cells harbouring oncogene-induced DNA replication and metabolic vulnerabilities. Clinical development of PARG inhibitors (PARGi) will however require predictive biomarkers, in turn requiring an understanding of their mode of action. Furthermore, differential sensitivity to PARPi is key for expanding treatment options available for patients. Methods: A panel of 10 ovarian cancer cell lines and a living biobank of patient-derived ovarian cancer models (OCMs) were screened for PARGi-sensitivity using short- and long-term growth assays. PARGi-sensitivity was characterized using established markers for DNA replication stress, namely replication fibre asymmetry, RPA foci, KAP1 and Chk1 phosphorylation, and pan-nuclear γH2AX, indicating DNA replication catastrophe. Finally, gene expression in sensitive and resistant cells was also examined using NanoString or RNAseq. Results: PARGi sensitivity was identified in both ovarian cancer cell lines and patient-derived OCMs, with sensitivity accompanied by markers of persistent replication stress, and a pre-mitotic cell cycle block. Moreover, DNA replication genes are down-regulated in PARGi-sensitive cell lines consistent with an inherent DNA replication vulnerability. However, DNA replication gene expression did not predict PARGi-sensitivity in OCMs. The subset of patient-derived OCMs that are sensitive to single-agent PARG inhibition, includes models that are PARPi- and/or platinum-resistant, indicating that PARG inhibitors may represent an alternative treatment strategy for women with otherwise limited therapeutic options. Conclusions: We discover that a subset of ovarian cancers are intrinsically sensitive to pharmacological PARG blockade, including drug-resistant disease, underpinned by a common mechanism of replication catastrophe. We explore the use of a transcript-based biomarker, and provide insight into the design of future clinical trials of PARGi in patients with ovarian cancer. However, our results highlight the complexity of developing a predictive biomarker for PARGi sensitivity.