A novel three-dimensional high-throughput screening approach identifies inducers of a mutant KRAS selective lethal phenotype



The RAS proteins are the most frequently mutated oncogenes in cancer, with highest frequency found in pancreatic, lung, and colon tumors. Moreover, the activity of RAS is required for the proliferation and/or survival of these tumor cells and thus represents a high-value target for therapeutic development. Direct targeting of RAS has proven challenging for multiple reasons stemming from the biology of the protein, the complexity of downstream effector pathways and upstream regulatory networks. Thus, significant efforts have been directed at identifying downstream targets on which RAS is dependent. These efforts have proven challenging, in part due to confounding factors such as reliance on two-dimensional adherent monolayer cell cultures that inadequately recapitulate the physiologic context to which cells are exposed in vivo. To overcome these issues, we implemented a high-throughput screening (HTS) approach using a spheroid-based 3-dimensional culture format, thought to more closely reflect conditions experienced by cells in vivo. Using isogenic cell pairs, differing in the status of KRAS, we identified Proscillaridin A as a selective inhibitor of cells harboring the oncogenic KRasG12V allele. Significantly, the identification of Proscillaridin A was facilitated by the 3D screening platform and would not have been discovered employing standard 2D culturing methods.

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We thank Pierre Baillargeon and Lina Deluca at Scripps for their help with compound management. This work was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R33CA206949 (TPS) and CA124495 (JK).

Author information

Author notes

    • Franck Madoux

    Present address: Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, USA


  1. Department of Molecular Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, Florida, USA

    • Smitha Kota
    • , Shurong Hou
    • , William Guerrant
    • , Franck Madoux
    • , Scott Troutman
    • , Virneliz Fernandez-Vega
    • , Nina Alekseeva
    • , Neeharika Madala
    • , Louis Scampavia
    • , Joseph Kissil
    •  & Timothy P. Spicer


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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Joseph Kissil or Timothy P. Spicer.

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