Discovery and characterization of targetable NTRK point mutations in hematologic neoplasms

Diagram showing cancer cells spreading into the blood stream CRUK 448

Joshi et al. (2020) Blood. CC BY-SA 4.0

Joshi SK, Qian K, Bisson WH, Watanabe-Smith K, Huang A, Bottomly D, Traer E, Tyner JW, McWeeney SK, Davare MA, Druker BJ, Tognon CE.


June 11, 2020

Much of what is known about the neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase (NTRK) genes in cancer was revealed through identification and characterization of activating Trk fusions across many tumor types. A resurgence of interest in these receptors has emerged owing to the realization that they are promising therapeutic targets. The remarkable efficacy of pan-Trk inhibitors larotrectinib and entrectinib in clinical trials led to their accelerated, tissue-agnostic US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for adult and pediatric patients with Trk-driven solid tumors. Despite our enhanced understanding of Trk biology in solid tumors, the importance of Trk signaling in hematological malignancies is underexplored and warrants further investigation. Herein, we describe mutations in NTRK2 and NTRK3 identified via deep sequencing of 185 patients with hematological malignancies. Ten patients contained a point mutation in NTRK2 or NTRK3; among these, we identified 9 unique point mutations. Of these 9 mutations, 4 were oncogenic (NTRK2A203T, NTRK2R458G, NTRK3E176D, and NTRK3L449F), determined via cytokine-independent cellular assays. Our data demonstrate that these mutations have transformative potential to promote downstream survival signaling and leukemogenesis. Specifically, the 3 mutations located within extracellular (ie, NTRK2A203T and NTRK3E176D) and transmembrane (ie, NTRK3L449F) domains increased receptor dimerization and cell-surface abundance. The fourth mutation, NTRK2R458G, residing in the juxtamembrane domain, activates TrkB via noncanonical mechanisms that may involve altered interactions between the mutant receptor and lipids in the surrounding environment. Importantly, these 4 activating mutations can be clinically targeted using entrectinib. Our findings contribute to ongoing efforts to define the mutational landscape driving hematological malignancies and underscore the utility of FDA-approved Trk inhibitors for patients with aggressive Trk-driven leukemias.

Last updated: July 28, 2020