CDK7 inhibition as a promising therapeutic strategy for lung squamous cell carcinomas with a SOX2 amplification

Jae Young Hur, Hyeong Ryul Kim, Jung Yeon Lee, Sojung Park, Ji An Hwang, Woo Sung Kim, Shinkyo Yoon, Chang Min Choi, Jin Kyung Rho, Jae Cheol Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Despite the development of molecular targeted therapies, few advances have been made in the treatment of lung squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SOX2 amplification is one of the most common genetic alterations in SCC. Here, we investigated the effects of THZ1, a potent cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7) inhibitor that plays a key role in gene transcription, in SCC. Methods: Lung SCC-derived cell viabilities were assessed using a CCK-8 assay. SOX2 expression and RNAPII-CTD phosphorylation levels after THZ1 treatment were determined by Western blotting. The effect of SOX2 suppression using shRNA was assessed by flow cytometry. Gene expression patterns after THZ1 treatment of lung SCC-derived cells were identified using microarray-based mRNA profiling. Results: We found that THZ1 treatment led to suppression of cell growth and apoptotic cell death in SOX2-amplified SCC-derived cells only, whereas the modest growth-inhibitory effect of cisplatin did not differ according to SOX2 amplification status. We also found that THZ1 decreased the phosphorylation of the carboxyl-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II and the expression of several genes. Specifically, we found that the expression of transcription-associated genes, including SOX2, was down-regulated by THZ1 in SOX2-amplified SCC cells. This inhibition of SOX2 expression resulted in suppression of the growth of these cells. Conclusions: From our data, we conclude that THZ1 may effectively control the proliferation and survival of SOX2-amplified SCC cells through a decrease in global transcriptional activity, suggesting that CDK7 inhibition leading to transcription suppression may be a promising therapeutic option for lung SCC with a SOX2 amplification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-458
Number of pages10
JournalCellular Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (2015R1DA1A01057022 to JKR) and a grant (2016–689 to HRK and 2016–709 to JCL) from the Asan Institute for Life Sciences, Seoul, Korea.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, International Society for Cellular Oncology.


  • CDK7
  • SOX2
  • Squamous cell lung cancer (SCC)
  • THZ1
  • Transcriptional addiction


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