Validating Novel Predictors of Cancer Cell Lines’ Sensitivities to MEK Inhibitors

Mentors: Lauren Murray, Jordi Barretina

Cassandra worked this summer on finding links between the mutations in different cancer cell types, and whether or not these cells are sensitive to specific anti-cancer drugs. Cassandra’s mentors had previously shown that BRAF mutant cell lines expressing low levels of the gene BAD – and NRAS mutant cell lines expressing high levels of the gene AHR – were particularly sensitive to a specific chemical compound that inhibits the function of the MEK gene.

Cassandra explored these two connections further, via two follow-up experiments. First, Cassandra studied the levels of MEK inhibitor sensitivity of 7 different cancer cell lines – all with mutant forms of BRAF, but with different levels of BAD expresssion. Some of her results diverged from the expected sensitivity to MEK inhibitors, and thus further investigation is necessary. Next, Cassandra knocked down the function of AHR, in two NRAS mutant cell lines highly expressing AHR. She observed that these cells subsequently grew at slower rates, demonstrating that NRAS mutant cell lines seem to be dependent on AHR for cell growth. 



Cassandra, a senior at Newton Country Day School, studied connections between which mutations are present in different kinds of cancer cells, and the cells’ sensitivities to potential anti-cancer drugs.