The HSP90 inhibitor XL888 overcomes BRAF inhibitor resistance mediated through diverse mechanisms

The clinical use of BRAF inhibitors is being hampered by the acquisition of drug resistance. This study shows the potential therapeutic use of the HSP90 inhibitor (XL888) in six different models of vemurafenib resistance.


The ability of XL888 to inhibit growth and to induce apoptosis and tumor regression of vemurafenib-resistant melanoma cell lines was shown in vitro and in vivo. A novel mass spectrometry-based pharmacodynamic assay was developed to measure intratumoral HSP70 levels following HSP90 inhibition in melanoma cell lines, xenografts, and melanoma biopsies. Mechanistic studies were carried out to determine the mechanism of XL888-induced apoptosis.


XL888 potently inhibited cell growth, induced apoptosis, and prevented the growth of vemurafenib-resistant melanoma cell lines in 3-dimensional cell culture, long-term colony formation assays, and human melanoma mouse xenografts. The reversal of the resistance phenotype was associated with the degradation of PDGFRβ, COT, IGFR1, CRAF, ARAF, S6, cyclin D1, and AKT, which in turn led to the nuclear accumulation of FOXO3a, an increase in BIM (Bcl-2 interacting mediator of cell death) expression, and the downregulation of Mcl-1. In most resistance models, XL888 treatment increased BIM expression, decreased Mcl-1 expression, and induced apoptosis more effectively than dual mitogen-activated protein-extracellular signal-regulated kinase/phosphoinositide 3-kinase (MEK/PI3K) inhibition.


HSP90 inhibition may be a highly effective strategy at managing the diverse array of resistance mechanisms being reported to BRAF inhibitors and appears to be more effective at restoring BIM expression and downregulating Mcl-1 expression than combined MEK/PI3K inhibitor therapy.

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