Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer and successful treatment of metastatic melanoma remains challenging. BRAF/MEK inhibitors only show a temporary benefit due to rapid occurrence of resistance, whereas immunotherapy is mainly effective in selected subsets of patients. Thus, there is a need to identify new targets to improve treatment of metastatic melanoma. To this extent, we searched for markers that are elevated in melanoma and are under regulation of potentially druggable enzymes. Here, we show that the pro-proliferative transcription factor FOXM1 is elevated and activated in malignant melanoma. FOXM1 activity correlated with expression of the enzyme Pin1, which we found to be indicative of a poor prognosis. In functional experiments, Pin1 proved to be a main regulator of FOXM1 activity through MEK-dependent physical regulation during the cell cycle. The Pin1-FOXM1 interaction was enhanced by BRAF V600E, the driver oncogene in the majority of melanomas, and in extrapolation of the correlation data, interference with Pin1 in BRAF V600E-driven metastatic melanoma cells impaired both FOXM1 activity and cell survival. Importantly, cell-permeable Pin1-FOXM1-blocking peptides repressed the proliferation of melanoma cells in freshly isolated human metastatic melanoma ex vivo and in three-dimensional-cultured patient-derived melanoids. When combined with the BRAF V600E-inhibitor PLX4032 a robust repression in melanoid viability was obtained, establishing preclinical value of patient-derived melanoids for prognostic use of drug sensitivity and further underscoring the beneficial effect of Pin1-FOXM1 inhibitory peptides as anti-melanoma drugs. These proof-of-concept results provide a starting point for development of therapeutic Pin1-FOXM1 inhibitors to target metastatic melanoma
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