Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) often expresses mutant KRAS together with tumor-associated mutations of the CDKN2A locus, which are associated with aggressive, therapy-resistant tumors. Here, we unravel specific requirements for the maintenance of NSCLC that carries this genotype. We establish that the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/RHOA/focal adhesion kinase (FAK) network is deregulated in high-grade lung tumors. Suppression of RHOA or FAK induces cell death selectively in mutant KRAS;INK4A/ARF-deficient lung cancer cells. Furthermore, pharmacologic inhibition of FAK caused tumor regression specifically in the high-grade lung cancer that developed in mutant Kras;Cdkn2a-null mice. These findings provide a rationale for the rapid implementation of genotype-specific targeted therapies using FAK inhibitors in patients with cancer.
Targeted therapies are effective for only a small fraction of patients with cancer. We report that FAK inhibitors exert potent antitumor effects in NSCLCs that express mutant KRAS in association with INK4A/ARF deficiency. These results reveal a novel genotype-specific vulnerability of cancer cells that can be exploited for therapeutic purposes.