Synovial sarcoma (SS) is a rare high-grade malignant mesenchymal tumour with a relatively poor prognosis despite intensive multimodal therapy. Although pazopanib, a multi-kinase inhibitor, is often used for advanced SS, most cases eventually become resistant to pazopanib. In the present study, we investigated the mechanisms of acquired pazopanib resistance in SS. To examine acquired pazopanib resistance, two SS cell lines, SYO-1 and HS-SY-II, were isolated after multiple selection steps with increasing concentrations of pazopanib. SYO-1 was also used in vivo. Then, pazopanib-resistant clones were investigated to assess potential mechanisms of acquired pazopanib resistance. Stable pazopanib-resistant clones were established and exhibited enhanced cell cycle progression, cell growth with increased ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and higher sensitivity than parental cells to a MEK-inhibitor, trametinib, both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, addition of low-dose trametinib partially reversed the pazopanib resistance. In the pazopanib-resistant clones, dual specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) was downregulated. Inhibition of DUSP6 expression in parental HS-SY-II cells partially recapitulated acquired pazopanib resistance. Acquired pazopanib resistance in SS was associated with activation of ERK1/2 through downregulation of DUSP6 expression. Simultaneous treatment with pazopanib and a MEK inhibitor could be a promising strategy to overcome pazopanib resistance in SS.
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