Base excision repair (BER) is an essential pathway for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) survival. Attempts to target this repair pathway have failed due to lack of tumor-selectivity and very limited efficacy. The NAD(P)H:Quinone Oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) bioactivatable drug, β-lapachone (ARQ761 in clinical form), can provide tumor-selective and enhanced synergy with BER inhibition. β-Lapachone undergoes NQO1-dependent futile redox cycling, generating massive intracellular hydrogen peroxide levels and oxidative DNA lesions that stimulate poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) hyperactivation. Rapid NAD+/ATP depletion and programmed necrosis results. To identify BER modulators essential for repair of β-lapachone-induced DNA base damage, a focused synthetic lethal RNAi screen demonstrated that silencing the BER scaffolding protein, XRCC1, sensitized PDA cells. In contrast, depleting OGG1 N-glycosylase spared cells from β-lap-induced lethality and blunted PARP1 hyperactivation. Combining β-lapachone with XRCC1 knockdown or methoxyamine (MeOX), an apyrimidinic/apurinic (AP)-modifying agent, led to NQO1-dependent synergistic killing in PDA, NSCLC, breast and head and neck cancers. OGG1 knockdown, dicoumarol-treatment or NQO1- cancer cells were spared. MeOX + β-lapachone exposure resulted in elevated DNA double-strand breaks, PARP1 hyperactivation and TUNEL+ programmed necrosis. Combination treatment caused dramatic antitumor activity, enhanced PARP1-hyperactivation in tumor tissue, and improved survival of mice bearing MiaPaca2-derived xenografts, with 33% apparent cures. Significance: Targeting base excision repair (BER) alone has limited therapeutic potential for pancreatic or other cancers due to a general lack of tumor-selectivity. Here, we present a treatment strategy that makes BER inhibition tumor-selective and NQO1-dependent for therapy of most solid neoplasms, particularly for pancreatic cancer.
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