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This article is the authors' final version prior to publication in Cancer Research, Volume 82, Issue 14, 2022, Pages 2625-2639.

The published version is available at Copyright © American Association for Cancer Research.


Melanomas frequently harbor activating NRAS mutations. However, limited advance has been made in developing targeted therapy options for NRAS mutant melanoma patients. MEK inhibitors (MEKi) show modest efficacy in the clinic and their actions need to be optimized. In this study, we performed a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9-based screen and demonstrated that loss of Phosphoinositide-dependent kinase-1 (PDPK1) enhances the efficacy of MEKi. The synergistic effects of PDPK1 loss and MEKi was validated in NRAS mutant melanoma cell lines using pharmacological and molecular approaches. Combined PDPK1 inhibitors (PDPK1i) with MEKi suppressed NRAS mutant xenograft growth and induced gasdermin E-associated pyroptosis. In an immune-competent allograft model, PDPK1i+MEKi increased the ratio of intratumoral CD8+ T cells, delayed tumor growth and prolonged survival; the combination treatment was less effective against tumors in immune-deficient mice. These data suggest PDPK1i+MEKi as an efficient immunostimulatory strategy against NRAS mutant melanoma.

Significance: Targeting PDPK1 stimulates anti-tumor immunity and sensitizes NRAS mutant melanoma to MEK inhibition, providing rationale for the clinical development of a combinatorial approach for treating melanoma patients.