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Quantifying Drug Combination Synergy along Potency and Efficacy Axes


Meyer CT , Wooten DJ , Paudel BB , Bauer J , Hardeman KN , Westover D , Lovly CM , Harris LA , Tyson DR , Quaranta V , . Cell systems. 2019 02 20; 8(2). 97-108.e16


Two goals motivate treating diseases with drug combinations: reduce off-target toxicity by minimizing doses (synergistic potency) and improve outcomes by escalating effect (synergistic efficacy). Established drug synergy frameworks obscure such distinction, failing to harness the potential of modern chemical libraries. We therefore developed multi-dimensional synergy of combinations (MuSyC), a formalism based on a generalized, multi-dimensional Hill equation, which decouples synergistic potency and efficacy. In mutant-EGFR-driven lung cancer, MuSyC reveals that combining a mutant-EGFR inhibitor with inhibitors of other kinases may result only in synergistic potency, whereas synergistic efficacy can be achieved by co-targeting mutant-EGFR and epigenetic regulation or microtubule polymerization. In mutant-BRAF melanoma, MuSyC determines whether a molecular correlate of BRAFi insensitivity alters a BRAF inhibitor’s potency, efficacy, or both. These findings showcase MuSyC’s potential to transform the enterprise of drug-combination screens by precisely guiding translation of combinations toward dose reduction, improved efficacy, or both.