Brd4 as a Prognostic Indicator and Modulator of the Cell Response to DNA Damage

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Professor Michael Yaffe
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT
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Scott Floyd
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT
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Tod Woolf
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Compositions and Methods for Modulating BRD4 Bioactivity

US Patent 9,610,332
The bromodomain protein Brd4 insulates chromatin from DNA damage signalling
Nature, Jun 13, 2013;498(7453):246-50


This invention may be used as a prognostic indicator for radiation treatment efficacy or as a modulator for DNA damage response in cancer therapy.

Problem Addressed

DNA damage activates a complex signaling network in cells that blocks cell cycle progression, recruits factors involved in DNA repair, and/or triggers programs that control senescence or programmed cell death. Despite this signaling network’s critical role in cancer pathogenesis, it is not fully understood. While investigating the role of chromatin structure in DNA damage response, it was discovered that Brd4, a double bromodomain-containing protein, is an endogenous inhibitor of DNA damage signaling and may be used for cancer treatment.


Alterations in chromatin structure are known to be important for the initiation and propagation of the DNA damage response, although the molecular details are unclear. The inventors monitored multiple time dependent checkpoint signaling and response events with a high-content multiplex image-based RNAi screen of chromatin modifying and interacting genes and discovered that Brd4 inhibits DNA damage signaling by binding to acetylated histones at sites of open chromatin and altering chromatin accessibility. Brd4 knockdown cells displayed altered chromatin structure, prolonged cell cycle checkpoint arrest and enhanced survival after irradiation, while overexpression of Brd4 isoformB results in enhanced radiation induced lethality. Therefore, drugs that inhibit Brd4 bromodomain binding or mis-localize Brd4 can serve as a radio-protective agents while therapies that up-regulate Brd4 isoformB expression can be used to increase the sensitivity of tumor cells to DNA damaging treatments such as ionizing radiation and chemotherapy. Lastly, it was discovered that assaying the levels of Brd4 isoformB expression in glioblastoma, and potentially other cancers, can be specifically used to predict which patients will have a good response to radiation.


  • Prognostic indicator of DNA damage therapy response
  • Sensitize tumors to DNA damage treatment
  • Protect healthy cells from DNA damage treatment through inhibition