MCAK Inhibitors Induce Aneuploidy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Models

John C Smith 1, Stefan Husted 2, Jay Pilrose 3, Stephanie C Ems-McClung 1, Jane R Stout 1, Richard L Carpenter 1, Claire E Walczak 1

Cancers (Basel) . 2023 Jun 23;15(13):3309. doi: 10.3390/cancers15133309.
Publication Date

Standard of care for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) involves the use of microtubule poisons such as paclitaxel, which are proposed to work by inducing lethal levels of aneuploidy in tumor cells. While these drugs are initially effective in treating cancer, dose-limiting peripheral neuropathies are common. Unfortunately, patients often relapse with drug-resistant tumors. Identifying agents against targets that limit aneuploidy may be a valuable approach for therapeutic development. One potential target is the microtubule depolymerizing kinesin, MCAK, which limits aneuploidy by regulating microtubule dynamics during mitosis. Using publicly available datasets, we found that MCAK is upregulated in triple-negative breast cancer and is associated with poorer prognoses. Knockdown of MCAK in tumor-derived cell lines caused a two- to five-fold reduction in the IC50 for paclitaxel, without affecting normal cells. Using FRET and image-based assays, we screened compounds from the ChemBridge 50 k library and discovered three putative MCAK inhibitors. These compounds reproduced the aneuploidy-inducing phenotype of MCAK loss, reduced clonogenic survival of TNBC cells regardless of taxane-resistance, and the most potent of the three, C4, sensitized TNBC cells to paclitaxel. Collectively, our work shows promise that MCAK may serve as both a biomarker of prognosis and as a therapeutic target.



Smith JC, Husted S, Pilrose J, Ems-McClung SC, Stout JR, Carpenter RL, Walczak CE. MCAK Inhibitors Induce Aneuploidy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Models. Cancers (Basel). 2023 Jun 23;15(13):3309. doi: 10.3390/cancers15133309. PMID: 37444419; PMCID: PMC10340532.