EWS-FLI1-regulated serine synthesis and exogenous serine are necessary for ewing sarcoma cellular proliferation and tumor growth

Sameer H. Issaq, Arnulfo Mendoza, Ria Kidner, Tracy I. Rosales, Damien Y. Duveau, Christine M. Heske, Jason M. Rohde, Matthew B. Boxer, Craig J. Thomas, Ralph J. DeBerardinis, Lee J. Helman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Despite a growing body of knowledge about the genomic landscape of Ewing sarcoma, translation of basic discoveries into targeted therapies and significant clinical gains has remained elusive. Recent insights have revealed that the oncogenic transcription factor EWS-FLI1 can impact Ewing sarcoma cellular metabolism, regulating expression of 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH), the first enzyme in de novo serine synthesis. Here, we have examined the importance of serine metabolism in Ewing sarcoma tumorigenesis and evaluated the therapeutic potential of targeting serine metabolism in preclinical models of Ewing sarcoma. We show that PHGDH knockdown resulted in decreased Ewing sarcoma cell proliferation, especially under serine limitation, and significantly inhibited xenograft tumorigenesis in preclinical orthotopic models of Ewing sarcoma. In addition, the PHGDH inhibitor NCT-503 caused a dose-dependent decrease in cellular proliferation. Moreover, we report a novel drug combination in which nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) inhibition, which blocks production of the PHGDH substrate NADþ, synergized with NCT-503 to abolish Ewing sarcoma cell proliferation and tumor growth. Furthermore, we show that serine deprivation inhibited Ewing sarcoma cell proliferation and tumorigenesis, indicating that Ewing sarcoma cells depend on exogenous serine in addition to de novo serine synthesis. Our findings suggest that serine metabolism is critical for Ewing sarcoma tumorigenesis, and that targeting metabolic dependencies should be further investigated as a potential therapeutic strategy for Ewing sarcoma. In addition, the combination strategy presented herein may have broader clinical applications in other PHGDH-overexpressing cancers as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1520-1529
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Therapeutics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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