PhD Candidate Cornell University, Ithaca, NY Ithaca, New York, United States
Adnan Shami Shah (Cornell University, Cornell University)| Xiaofu Cao (Cornell University, Cornell University)| Andrew White (Cornell University)| Jeremy Baskin (Cornell University, Cornell University )
Melanoma patients incur substantial mortality, despite promising recent advances in targeted therapies and immunotherapies. In particular, inhibitors targeting BRAF-mutant melanoma can lead to resistance, and no targeted therapies exist for NRAS-mutant melanoma, motivating the search for additional therapeutic targets and vulnerable pathways. Here, we identify a regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, PLEKHA4, as a factor required for melanoma proliferation and survival. PLEKHA4 knockdown in vitro leads to lower Dishevelled levels, attenuated Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and a block of progression through the G1/S cell cycle transition. In mouse xenograft models, inducible PLEKHA4 knockdown attenuated tumor growth in BRAF- and NRAS-mutant melanomas and synergized with the clinically used inhibitor encorafenib in a BRAF-mutant model. As an E3 ubiquitin ligase regulator with both lipid and protein binding partners, PLEKHA4 presents several opportunities for targeting with small molecules. Our work identifies PLEKHA4 as a promising drug target for melanoma and clarifies a controversial role for Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the control of melanoma proliferation.