Binary pan-cancer classes with distinct vulnerabilities defined by pro- or anti-cancer YAP/TEAD activity

Joel D. Pearson, Katherine Huang, Marek Pacal, Sean R. McCurdy, Suying Lu, Arthur Aubry, Tao Yu, Kristine M. Wadosky, Letian Zhang, Tao Wang, Alex Gregorieff, Mohammad Ahmad, Helen Dimaras, Ellen Langille, Susan P.C. Cole, Philippe P. Monnier, Benjamin H. Lok, Ming Sound Tsao, Nagako Akeno, Daniel SchramekKathryn A. Wikenheiser-Brokamp, Erik S. Knudsen, Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, Jeffrey L. Wrana, David W. Goodrich, Rod Bremner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Cancer heterogeneity impacts therapeutic response, driving efforts to discover over-arching rules that supersede variability. Here, we define pan-cancer binary classes based on distinct expression of YAP and YAP-responsive adhesion regulators. Combining informatics with in vivo and in vitro gain- and loss-of-function studies across multiple murine and human tumor types, we show that opposite pro- or anti-cancer YAP activity functionally defines binary YAPon or YAPoff cancer classes that express or silence YAP, respectively. YAPoff solid cancers are neural/neuroendocrine and frequently RB1−/−, such as retinoblastoma, small cell lung cancer, and neuroendocrine prostate cancer. YAP silencing is intrinsic to the cell of origin, or acquired with lineage switching and drug resistance. The binary cancer groups exhibit distinct YAP-dependent adhesive behavior and pharmaceutical vulnerabilities, underscoring clinical relevance. Mechanistically, distinct YAP/TEAD enhancers in YAPoff or YAPon cancers deploy anti-cancer integrin or pro-cancer proliferative programs, respectively. YAP is thus pivotal across cancer, but in opposite ways, with therapeutic implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1134.e12
JournalCancer Cell
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 9 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • RB1
  • TEAD
  • YAP
  • cancer plasticity
  • cancer stratification
  • neuroendocrine cancer
  • retinoblastoma
  • retinoma
  • small cell cancers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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