Transcription factor fusion genes create oncoproteins that drive oncogenesis and represent challenging therapeutic targets. Understanding the molecular targets by which such fusion oncoproteins promote malignancy offers an approach to develop rational treatment strategies to improve clinical outcomes. Capicua–double homeobox 4 (CIC-DUX4) is a transcription factor fusion oncoprotein that defines certain undifferentiated round cell sarcomas with high metastatic propensity and poor clinical outcomes. The molecular targets regulated by the CIC-DUX4 oncoprotein that promote this aggressive malignancy remain largely unknown. We demonstrated that increased expression of ETS variant 4 (ETV4) and cyclin E1 (CCNE1) occurs via neomorphic, direct effects of CIC-DUX4 and drives tumor metastasis and survival, respectively. We uncovered a molecular dependence on the CCNE-CDK2 cell cycle complex that renders CIC-DUX4–expressing tumors sensitive to inhibition of the CCNE-CDK2 complex, suggesting a therapeutic strategy for CIC-DUX4–expressing tumors. Our findings highlight a paradigm of functional diversification of transcriptional repertoires controlled by a genetically aberrant transcriptional regulator, with therapeutic implications.
Ross A. Okimoto, Wei Wu, Shigeki Nanjo, Victor Olivas, Yone K. Lin, Rovingaile Kriska Ponce, Rieko Oyama, Tadashi Kondo, Trever G. Bivona