Convergence of pathway analysis and pattern recognition predicts sensitization to latest generation TRAIL therapeutics by IAP antagonism
Second generation TRAIL-based therapeutics, combined with sensitising co-treatments, have recently entered clinical trials. However, reliable response predictors for optimal patient selection are not yet available. Here, we demonstrate that a novel and translationally relevant hexavalent TRAIL receptor agonist, IZI1551, in combination with Birinapant, a clinically tested IAP antagonist, efficiently induces cell death in various melanoma models, and that responsiveness can be predicted by combining pathway analysis, data-driven modelling and pattern recognition. Across a panel of 16 melanoma cell lines, responsiveness to IZI1551/Birinapant was heterogeneous, with complete resistance and pronounced synergies observed. Expression patterns of TRAIL pathway regulators allowed us to develop a combinatorial marker that predicts potent cell killing with high accuracy. IZI1551/Birinapant responsiveness could be predicted not only for cell lines, but also for 3D tumour cell spheroids and for cells directly isolated from patient melanoma metastases (80–100% prediction accuracies). Mathematical parameter reduction identified 11 proteins crucial to ensure prediction accuracy, with x-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) and procaspase-3 scoring highest, and Bcl-2 family members strongly represented. Applied to expression data of a cohort of n = 365 metastatic melanoma patients in a proof of concept in silico trial, the predictor suggested that IZI1551/Birinapant responsiveness could be expected for up to 30% of patient tumours. Overall, response frequencies in melanoma models were very encouraging, and the capability to predict melanoma sensitivity to combinations of latest generation TRAIL-based therapeutics and IAP antagonists can address the need for patient selection strategies in clinical trials based on these novel drugs.