Cellular fitness phenotypes of cancer target genes from oncobiology to cancer therapeutics

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To define the growing significance of cellular targets and/or effectors of cancer drugs, we examined the fitness dependency of cellular targets and effectors of cancer drug targets across human cancer cells from 19 cancer types. We observed that the deletion of 35 out of 47 cellular effectors and/or targets of oncology drugs did not result in the expected loss of cell fitness in appropriate cancer types for which drugs targeting or utilizing these molecules for their actions were approved. Additionally, our analysis recognized 43 cellular molecules as fitness genes in several cancer types in which these drugs were not approved, and thus, providing clues for repurposing certain approved oncology drugs in such cancer types. For example, we found a widespread upregulation and fitness dependency of several components of the mevalonate and purine biosynthesis pathways (currently targeted by bisphosphonates, statins, and pemetrexed in certain cancers) and an association between the overexpression of these molecules and reduction in the overall survival duration of patients with breast and other hard-to-treat cancers, for which such drugs are not approved. In brief, the present analysis raised cautions about off-target and undesirable effects of certain oncology drugs in a subset of cancers where the intended cellular effectors of drug might not be good fitness genes and that this study offers a potential rationale for repurposing certain approved oncology drugs for targeted therapeutics in additional cancer types.

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