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BACKGROUND: Aiming to improve treatment options for BRAF wild-type melanoma, we previously conducted the DOC-MEK study of docetaxel with MEK inhibitor (MEKi) selumetinib or placebo, revealing trends to prolongation of progression-free survival (hazard ratio 0.75, P = 0.130), and improved response rates (32% vs 14%, P = 0.059) with docetaxel plus selumetinib. NRAS status did not associate with outcome. Here, the aim was to identify novel biomarkers of response to MEKi. METHODS: A MEK 6 gene signature was quantified using NanoString and correlated with clinical outcomes. Two components of the gene signature were investigated by gene silencing in BRAF/NRAS wild-type melanoma cells. RESULTS: In melanomas of patients on the selumetinib but not the placebo arm, two gene signature components, dual-specificity protein phosphatase 4 (DUSP4) and ETS translocation variant 4 (ETV4), were expressed more highly in responders than non-responders. In vitro, ETV4 depletion inhibited cell survival but did not influence sensitivity to MEKi selumetinib or trametinib. In contrast, DUSP4-depleted cells showed enhanced cell survival and increased resistance to both selumetinib and trametinib. CONCLUSIONS: ETV4 and DUSP4 associated with clinical response to docetaxel plus selumetinib. DUSP4 depletion induced MEKi resistance, suggesting that DUSP4 is not only a biomarker but also a mediator of MEKi sensitivity. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: DOC-MEK (EudraCT no: 2009-018153-23).

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





506 - 516


Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Benzimidazoles, Docetaxel, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Dual-Specificity Phosphatases, Humans, MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases, Melanoma, Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatases, Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets, Transcriptome