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Acquired PARP inhibitor (PARPi) resistance in BRCA1- or BRCA2-mutant ovarian cancer often results from secondary mutations that restore expression of functional protein. RAD51C is a less commonly studied ovarian cancer susceptibility gene whose promoter is sometimes methylated in the tumor, leading to homologous recombination deficiency and PARPi sensitivity. For this study, the PARPi-sensitive patient-derived xenograft PH039, which lacks demonstrable repair gene mutations but harbors RAD51C promoter methylation, was selected for PARPi resistance by repeated 21-day niraparib treatments in vivo. PH039 acquired PARPi resistance by the third cycle of treatment and demonstrated unimpeded growth during subsequent exposure to either niraparib or rucaparib. Transcriptional profiling throughout the time course of resistance development showed widespread pathway level changes along with a marked increase in RAD51C mRNA, which reflected loss of RAD51C promoter methylation. Analysis of RAD51C methylation in patient tumor samples from the ARIEL2 Part 1 clinical trial of rucaparib monotherapy likewise indicated that loss of RAD51C methylation prior to on-study biopsy was associated with limited response. Interestingly, the PARPi resistant PH039 model remained platinum sensitive. Collectively, these results not only indicate that PARPi treatment pressure can reverse RAD51C methylation and restore RAD51C expression, but also provide an important model for studying the clinical observation that PARPi and platinum sensitivity are sometimes dissociated.

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