Upregulation of the Mevalonate Pathway through EWSR1-FLI1/EGR2 Regulatory Axis Confers Ewing Cells Exquisite Sensitivity to Statins

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Charlie Buchou, Karine Laud-Duval, Wietske van der Ent, Sandrine Grossetête, Sakina Zaidi, Géraldine Gentric, Maxime Corbé, Kévin Müller, Elaine Del Nery, Didier Surdez, Olivier Delattre

Ewing sarcoma (EwS) is an aggressive primary bone cancer in children and young adults characterized by oncogenic fusions between genes encoding FET-RNA-binding proteins and ETS transcription factors, the most frequent fusion being EWSR1-FLI1. We show that EGR2, an Ewing-susceptibility gene and an essential direct target of EWSR1-FLI1, directly regulates the transcription of genes encoding key enzymes of the mevalonate (MVA) pathway. Consequently, Ewing sarcoma is one of the tumors that expresses the highest levels of mevalonate pathway genes. Moreover, genome-wide screens indicate that MVA pathway genes constitute major dependencies of Ewing cells. Accordingly, the statin inhibitors of HMG-CoA-reductase, a rate-limiting enzyme of the MVA pathway, demonstrate cytotoxicity in EwS. Statins induce increased ROS and lipid peroxidation levels, as well as decreased membrane localization of prenylated proteins, such as small GTP proteins. These metabolic effects lead to an alteration in the dynamics of S-phase progression and to apoptosis. Statin-induced effects can be rescued by downstream products of the MVA pathway. Finally, we further show that statins impair tumor growth in different Ewing PDX models. Altogether, the data show that statins, which are off-patent, well-tolerated, and inexpensive compounds, should be strongly considered in the therapeutic arsenal against this deadly childhood disease.