Although targeted inhibition of oncogenic kinase drivers has achieved remarkable patient responses in many cancers, the development of resistance has remained a significant challenge. Numerous mechanisms have been identified, including the acquisition of gatekeeper mutations, activating pathway mutations, and copy number loss or gain of the driver or alternate nodes. These changes have prompted the development of kinase inhibitors with increased selectivity, use of second-line therapeutics to overcome primary resistance, and combination treatment to forestall resistance. In addition to genomic resistance mechanisms, adaptive transcriptional and signaling responses seen in tumors are gaining appreciation as alterations that lead to a phenotypic state change—often observed as an epithelial-to-mesenchymal shift or reversion to a cancer stem cell–like phenotype underpinned by remodeling of the epigenetic landscape. This epigenomic modulation driving cell state change is multifaceted and includes modulation of repressive and activating histone modifications, DNA methylation, enhancer remodeling, and noncoding RNA species. Consequently, the combination of kinase inhibitors with drugs targeting components of the transcriptional machinery and histone-modifying enzymes has shown promise in preclinical and clinical studies. Here, we review mechanisms of resistance to kinase inhibition in cancer, with special emphasis on the rewired kinome and transcriptional signaling networks and the potential vulnerabilities that may be exploited to overcome these adaptive signaling changes.


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