The repurposed anthelmintic mebendazole in combination with trametinib suppresses refractory NRASQ61K melanoma

Cynthia M. Simbulan-Rosenthal, Sivanesan Dakshanamurthy, Anirudh Gaur, You Shin Chen, Hong Bin Fang, Maryam Abdussamad, Hengbo Zhou, John Zapas, Valerie Calvert, Emanuel F. Petricoin, Michael B. Atkins, Stephen W. Byers, Dean S. Rosenthal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Structure-based drug repositioning in addition to random chemical screening is now a viable route to rapid drug development. Proteochemometric computational methods coupled with kinase assays showed that mebendazole (MBZ) binds and inhibits kinases important in cancer, especially both BRAFWT and BRAFV600E. We find that MBZ synergizes with the MEK inhibitor trametinib to inhibit growth of BRAFWT-NRASQ61K melanoma cells in culture and in xenografts, and markedly decreased MEK and ERK phosphorylation. Reverse Phase Protein Array (RPPA) and immunoblot analyses show that both trametinib and MBZ inhibit the MAPK pathway, and cluster analysis revealed a protein cluster showing strong MBZ+trametinib - inhibited phosphorylation of MEK and ERK within 10 minutes, and its direct and indirect downstream targets related to stress response and translation, including ElK1 and RSKs within 30 minutes. Downstream ERK targets for cell cycle, including cMYC, were down-regulated, consistent with S- phase suppression by MBZ+trametinib, while apoptosis markers, including cleaved caspase-3, cleaved PARP and a sub-G1 population, were all increased with time. These data suggest that MBZ, a welltolerated off-patent approved drug, should be considered as a therapeutic option in combination with trametinib, for patients with NRASQ61mut or other non-V600E BRAF mutant melanomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12576-12595
Number of pages20
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • BRAF
  • Drug repurposing
  • ERK pathway
  • Melanoma
  • mebendazole


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