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1.  Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenetics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/mas or at www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
Objective
The Medical Advisory Secretariat undertook a systematic review of the evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation testing compared with no EGFR mutation testing to predict response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), gefitinib (Iressa®) or erlotinib (Tarceva®) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
With an estimated 7,800 new cases and 7,000 deaths last year, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario. Those with unresectable or advanced disease are commonly treated with concurrent chemoradiation or platinum-based combination chemotherapy. Although response rates to cytotoxic chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC are approximately 30 to 40%, all patients eventually develop resistance and have a median survival of only 8 to 10 months. Treatment for refractory or relapsed disease includes single-agent treatment with docetaxel, pemetrexed or EGFR-targeting TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib). TKIs disrupt EGFR signaling by competing with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the binding sites at the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain, thus inhibiting the phosphorylation and activation of EGFRs and the downstream signaling network. Gefitinib and erlotinib have been shown to be either non-inferior or superior to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting (gefitinib), or superior to placebo in the second- or third-line setting (erlotinib).
Certain patient characteristics (adenocarcinoma, non-smoking history, Asian ethnicity, female gender) predict for better survival benefit and response to therapy with TKIs. In addition, the current body of evidence shows that somatic mutations in the EGFR gene are the most robust biomarkers for EGFR-targeting therapy selection. Drugs used in this therapy, however, can be costly, up to C$ 2000 to C$ 3000 per month, and they have only approximately a 10% chance of benefiting unselected patients. For these reasons, the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for TKIs in patients with advanced NSCLC needs to be determined.
The Technology: EGFR mutation testing
The EGFR gene sequencing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays is the most widely used method for EGFR mutation testing. PCR assays can be performed at pathology laboratories across Ontario. According to experts in the province, sequencing is not currently done in Ontario due to lack of adequate measurement sensitivity. A variety of new methods have been introduced to increase the measurement sensitivity of the mutation assay. Some technologies such as single-stranded conformational polymorphism, denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography, and high-resolution melting analysis have the advantage of facilitating rapid mutation screening of large numbers of samples with high measurement sensitivity but require direct sequencing to confirm the identity of the detected mutations. Other techniques have been developed for the simple, but highly sensitive detection of specific EGFR mutations, such as the amplification refractory mutations system (ARMS) and the peptide nucleic acid-locked PCR clamping. Others selectively digest wild-type DNA templates with restriction endonucleases to enrich mutant alleles by PCR. Experts in the province of Ontario have commented that currently PCR fragment analysis for deletion and point mutation conducts in Ontario, with measurement sensitivity of 1% to 5%.
Research Questions
In patients with locally-advanced or metastatic NSCLC, what is the clinical effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing for prediction of response to treatment with TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib) in terms of progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rates (ORR), overall survival (OS), and quality of life (QoL)?
What is the impact of EGFR mutation testing on overall clinical decision-making for patients with advanced or metastatic NSCLC?
What is the cost-effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the first-line setting?
What is the budget impact of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting?
Methods
A literature search was performed on March 9, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, Wiley Cochrane, CINAHL, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment for studies published from January 1, 2004 until February 28, 2010 using the following terms:
Non-Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor
An automatic literature update program also extracted all papers published from February 2010 until August 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, and then a group of epidemiologists, until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
The inclusion criteria were as follows:
Population: patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC (stage IIIB or IV)
Procedure: EGFR mutation testing before treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib
Language: publication in English
Published health technology assessments, guidelines, and peer-reviewed literature (abstracts, full text, conference abstract)
Outcomes: progression-free survival (PFS), Objective response rate (ORR), overall survival (OS), quality of life (QoL).
The exclusion criteria were as follows:
Studies lacking outcomes specific to those of interest
Studies focused on erlotinib maintenance therapy
Studies focused on gefitinib or erlotinib use in combination with cytotoxic agents or any other drug
Grey literature, where relevant, was also reviewed.
Outcomes of Interest
PFS
ORR determined by means of the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST)
OS
QoL
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the Phase II trials and observational studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Since the last published health technology assessment by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in 2007 there have been a number of phase III trials which provide evidence of predictive value of EGFR mutation testing in patients who were treated with gefitinib compared to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting. The Iressa Pan Asian Study (IPASS) trial showed the superiority of gefitinib in terms of PFS in patients with EGFR mutations versus patients with wild-type EGFR (Hazard ratio [HR], 0.48, 95%CI; 0.36-0.64 versus HR, 2.85; 95%CI, 2.05-3.98). Moreover, there was a statistically significant increased ORR in patients who received gefitinib and had EGFR mutations compared to patients with wild-type EGFR (71% versus 1%). The First-SIGNAL trial in patients with similar clinical characteristics as IPASS as well as the NEJ002 and WJTOG3405 trials that included only patients with EGFR mutations, provide confirmation that gefitinib is superior to chemotherapy in terms of improved PFS or higher ORR in patients with EGFR mutations. The INTEREST trial further indicated that patients with EGFR mutations had prolonged PFS and higher ORR when treated with gefitinib compared with docetaxel.
In contrast, there is still a paucity of strong evidence regarding the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for response to erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting. The BR.21 trial randomized 731 patients with NSCLC who were refractory or intolerant to prior first- or second-line chemotherapy to receive erlotinib or placebo. While the HR of 0.61 (95%CI, 0.51-0.74) favored erlotinib in the overall population, this was not a significant in the subsequent retrospective subgroup analysis. A retrospective evaluation of 116 of the BR.21 tumor samples demonstrated that patients with EGFR mutations had significantly higher ORRs when treated with erlotinib compared with placebo (27% versus 7%; P=0.03). However, erlotinib did not confer a significant survival benefit compared with placebo in patients with EGFR mutations (HR, 0.55; 95%CI, 0.25-1.19) versus wild-type (HR, 0.74; 95%CI, 0.52-1.05). The interaction between EGFR mutation status and erlotinib use was not significant (P=0.47). The lack of significance could be attributable to a type II error since there was a low sample size that was available for subgroup analysis.
A series of phase II studies have examined the clinical effectiveness of erlotinib in patients known to have EGFR mutations. Evidence from these studies has consistently shown that erlotinib yields a very high ORR (typically 70% vs. 4%) and a prolonged PFS (9 months vs. 2 months) in patients with EGFR mutations compared with patients with wild-type EGFR. Although having a prolonged PFS and higher respond in EGFR mutated patients might be due to a better prognostic profile regardless of the treatment received. In the absence of a comparative treatment or placebo control group, it is difficult to determine if the observed differences in survival benefit in patients with EGFR mutation is attributed to prognostic or predictive value of EGFR mutation status.
Conclusions
Based on moderate quality of evidence, patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC with adenocarcinoma histology being treated with gefitinib in the first-line setting are highly likely to benefit from gefitinib if they have EGFR mutations compared to those with wild-type EGFR. This advantage is reflected in improved PFS, ORR and QoL in patients with EGFR mutation who are being treated with gefitinib relative to patients treated with chemotherapy.
Based on low quality of evidence, in patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC who are being treated with erlotinib, the identification of EGFR mutation status selects those who are most likely to benefit from erlotinib relative to patients treated with placebo in the second or third-line setting.
PMCID: PMC3377519  PMID: 23074402
2.  BIM Mediates EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor-Induced Apoptosis in Lung Cancers with Oncogenic EGFR Mutations  
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e315.
Background
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are present in the majority of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) responsive to the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib or erlotinib. These EGFR-dependent tumors eventually become TKI resistant, and the common secondary T790M mutation accounts for half the tumors with acquired resistance to gefitinib. However, the key proapoptotic proteins involved in TKI-induced cell death and other secondary mutations involved in resistance remain unclear. The objective of this study was to identify the mechanism of EGFR TKI-induced apoptosis and secondary resistant mutations that affect this process.
Methods and Findings
To study TKI-induced cell death and mechanisms of resistance, we used lung cancer cell lines (with or without EGFR mutations), Ba/F3 cells stably transfected with EGFR mutation constructs, and tumor samples from a gefitinib-resistant patient. Here we show that up-regulation of the BH3-only polypeptide BIM (also known as BCL2-like 11) correlated with gefitinib-induced apoptosis in gefitinib-sensitive EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells. The T790M mutation blocked gefitinib-induced up-regulation of BIM and apoptosis. This blockade was overcome by the irreversible TKI CL-387,785. Knockdown of BIM by small interfering RNA was able to attenuate apoptosis induced by EGFR TKIs. Furthermore, from a gefitinib-resistant patient carrying the activating L858R mutation, we identified a novel secondary resistant mutation, L747S in cis to the activating mutation, which attenuated the up-regulation of BIM and reduced apoptosis.
Conclusions
Our results provide evidence that BIM is involved in TKI-induced apoptosis in sensitive EGFR-mutant cells and that both attenuation of the up-regulation of BIM and resistance to gefitinib-induced apoptosis are seen in models that contain the common EGFR T790M and the novel L747S secondary resistance mutations. These findings also suggest that induction of BIM may have a role in the treatment of TKI-resistant tumors.
Susumu Kobayashi and colleagues provide evidence that the polypeptide BIM is involved in tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-induced apoptosis in sensitiveEGFR-mutant cells and suggest that induction of BIM may have a role in the treatment of TKI-resistant tumors.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC). Many patients with NSCLC die within a year of their diagnosis, but recently, “targeted” therapies have increased the life expectancy of some of them. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genes. Targeted therapies specifically attack these changes and, unlike standard chemotherapy drugs, kill cancer cells without damaging normal cells. The targeted drugs used to treat NSCLC are gefitinib and erlotinib, two epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These “phosphorylated” proteins then tell the cell to divide. In some NSCLCs, EGFR drives uncontrolled cell division because its tyrosine kinase is mutated and the cancer becomes dependent on or “addicted” to EGFR signaling for its survival. TKI treatment can dramatically shrink this subset of NSCLCs, most of which lack a specific part of EGFR (the gene that encodes EGFR) or have the amino acid leucine instead of arginine at position 858 (an L858R mutation) of EGFR.
Why Was This Study Done?
TKI-sensitive NSCLCs eventually become resistant to TKIs because they acquire additional (secondary) mutations. In half of these TKI-resistant tumors, the additional mutation is replacement of threonine by methionine at position 790 (T790M) in EGFR. However, the mutations responsible for the remaining cases of TKI resistance are not known. In addition, little is known about how TKIs induce cell death other than that they induce a type of cell death called apoptosis. A better understanding of how TKIs kill tumor cells and how secondary mutations block their effects could reveal ways to enhance their action and improve the outcome for patients with NSCLC. In this study, the researchers have studied the mechanism of TKI-induced cell death and of resistance to TKIs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured the ability of gefitinib to cause apoptosis (genetically programmed cell death) in NSCLC cell lines (tumor cells adapted to grow indefinitely in dishes) that had the EGFR deletion, the L858R mutation, or normal EGFR. Gefitinib caused apoptosis only in cell lines with altered EGFR. Then they asked whether a proapoptotic protein called BIM (a member of the BCL2 family of pro- and antiapoptotic proteins) is involved in TKI-induced cell death—BIM is known to be involved in this process in leukemia (blood cancer) cells. Gefitinib treatment increased the expression of BIM in TKI-sensitive NSCLC cell lines and reduced the phosphorylation of BIM (which makes BIM more active). By contrast, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference reduced TKI-induced apoptosis in TKI-sensitive NSCLC cells. Furthermore, introduction of the T790M resistance mutation into these cells blocked gefitinib-induced up-regulation of BIM and apoptosis. Finally, the researchers identified a new TKI resistance mutation (L747S, substitution of serine for leucine at position 747) in a patient whose TKI-sensitive NSCLC had become resistant to gefitinib, and showed that this resistance mutation also reduced TKI-induced apoptosis in cells growing in dishes by interfering with BIM up-regulation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings (and those reported by Gong et al. and Cragg et al.) show that BIM is required for TKI-induced apoptosis in EGFR mutant NSCLC cells. They also show that mutations that make TKI-sensitive cells resistant to these drugs reduce TKI-induced apoptosis by preventing the upregulation of BIM. These results were obtained by examining the behavior of established cell lines growing in dishes and need to be confirmed in cells freshly isolated from tumors and in tumors themselves. However, they suggest that the efficacy of TKIs could be increased by finding ways to increase BIM expression or to activate other proteins involved in apoptosis Such approaches might be particularly beneficial for patients with NSCLC whose initially TKI-sensitive tumors have acquired mutations that make them resistant to TKIs.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040315.
Ingo Mellinghoff discusses this paper and two related ones in a perspective article
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer, including information on treatment with TKIs
CancerQuest information on all aspects of cancer from Emory University (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on apoptosis, epidermal growth factor receptor, and BCL2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040315
PMCID: PMC2043012  PMID: 17973572
3.  Gefitinib-Induced Killing of NSCLC Cell Lines Expressing Mutant EGFR Requires BIM and Can Be Enhanced by BH3 Mimetics 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e316.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays a critical role in the control of cellular proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Abnormalities in EGF-EGFR signaling, such as mutations that render the EGFR hyperactive or cause overexpression of the wild-type receptor, have been found in a broad range of cancers, including carcinomas of the lung, breast, and colon. EGFR inhibitors such as gefitinib have proven successful in the treatment of certain cancers, particularly non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) harboring activating mutations within the EGFR gene, but the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor regression remain unknown. Therefore, we wished to delineate these mechanisms.
Methods and Findings
We performed biochemical and genetic studies to investigate the mechanisms by which inhibitors of EGFR tyrosine kinase activity, such as gefitinib, inhibit the growth of human NSCLCs. We found that gefitinib triggered intrinsic (also called “mitochondrial”) apoptosis signaling, involving the activation of BAX and mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, ultimately unleashing the caspase cascade. Gefitinib caused a rapid increase in the level of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM (also called BCL2-like 11) through both transcriptional and post-translational mechanisms. Experiments with pharmacological inhibitors indicated that blockade of MEK–ERK1/2 (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase–extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2) signaling, but not blockade of PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase), JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase or mitogen-activated protein kinase 8), or AKT (protein kinase B), was critical for BIM activation. Using RNA interference, we demonstrated that BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells. Moreover, we found that gefitinib-induced apoptosis is enhanced by addition of the BH3 mimetic ABT-737.
Conclusions
Inhibitors of the EGFR tyrosine kinase have proven useful in the therapy of certain cancers, in particular NSCLCs possessing activating mutations in the EGFR kinase domain, but the mechanisms of tumor cell killing are still unclear. In this paper, we demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation. Moreover, we demonstrate that addition of a BH3 mimetic significantly enhances killing of NSCLC cells by the EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib. It appears likely that this approach represents a paradigm shared by many, and perhaps all, oncogenic tyrosine kinases and suggests a powerful new strategy for cancer therapy.
Andreas Strasser and colleagues demonstrate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for tumor cell killing and that shutdown of the EGFR−MEK−ERK signaling cascade is critical for BIM activation.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Normally, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are finely balanced to keep the human body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—life-threatening, disorganized masses of cells. One protein with a critical role in cell division that is often mutated in tumors is the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In normal cells, protein messengers bind to EGFR and activate its tyrosine kinase. This enzyme then adds phosphate groups to tyrosine (an amino acid) in proteins that form part of signaling cascades (for example, the MEK–ERK signaling cascade) that tell the cell to divide. In cancers that have mutations in EGFR, signaling is overactive so the cancer cells divide much more than they should. Some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC, the commonest type of lung cancer), for example, have activating mutations within the EGFR tyrosine kinase. Treatment with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib induces the cells in these tumors to stop growing and die. This cell death causes tumor shrinkage (regression) and increases the life expectancy of patients with this type of NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, treatment with TKIs rarely cures NSCLC, so it would be useful to find a way to augment the effect that TKIs have on cancer cells. To do this, the molecular mechanisms that cause cancer-cell death and tumor regression in response to these drugs need to be fully understood. In this study, the researchers have used a combination of biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate how gefitinib kills NSCLC cells with mutated EGFR.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first measured the sensitivity of NSCLC cell lines (tumor cells that grow indefinitely in dishes) to gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Gefitinib caused extensive apoptosis in two cell lines expressing mutant EGFR but not in one expressing normal EGFR. Next, they investigated the mechanism of gefitinib-induced apoptosis in the most sensitive cell line (H3255). Apoptosis is activated via two major pathways. Hallmarks of the “intrinsic” pathway include activation of a protein called BAX and cytochrome c release from subcellular compartments known as mitochondria. Gefitinib treatment induced both these events in H3255 cells. BAX (a proapoptotic member of the BCL-2 family of proteins) is activated when proapoptotic BH3-only BCL-2 proteins (for example, BIM; “BH3-only” describes the structure of these proteins) bind to antiapoptotic BCL2 proteins. Gefitinib treatment rapidly increased BIM activity in H3255 and HCC827 cells (but not in gefitinib-resistant cells) by increasing the production of BIM protein and the removal of phosphate groups from it, which increases BIM activity. Pharmacological blockade of the MEK–ERK signaling cascade, but not of other EGFR signaling cascades, also caused the accumulation of BIM. By contrast, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference reduced gefitinib-induced apoptosis. Finally, a combination of gefitinib and a BH3-mimicking compound called ABT-737 (which, like BIM, binds to antiapoptotic BCL-2 proteins) caused more apoptosis than gefitinib alone.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings (and those reported by Gong et al. and Costa et al.) indicate that activation of the proapoptotic BH3-only protein BIM is essential for gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells that carry EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations. They also show that inhibition of the EGFR–MEK–ERK signaling cascade by gefitinib is essential for BIM activation. Because these findings come from studies on NSCLC cell lines, they need confirming in freshly isolated tumor cells and in tumors growing in people. However, the demonstration that a compound that mimics BH3 action enhances gefitinib-induced killing of NSCLC cells suggests that combinations of TKIs and drugs that affect the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation might provide a powerful strategy for treating cancers in which tyrosine kinase mutations drive tumor growth.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040316.
A perspective by Ingo Mellinghoff discusses this article and two related research articles
Wikipedia pages on epidermal growth factor receptor, apoptosis, and BCL2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
CancerQuest provides information on all aspects of cancer from Emory University (in several languages)
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer including information on treatment with TKIs
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040316
PMCID: PMC2043013  PMID: 17973573
4.  Induction of BIM Is Essential for Apoptosis Triggered by EGFR Kinase Inhibitors in Mutant EGFR-Dependent Lung Adenocarcinomas 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(10):e294.
Background
Mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are associated with increased sensitivity of lung cancers to kinase inhibitors like erlotinib. Mechanisms of cell death that occur after kinase inhibition in these oncogene-dependent tumors have not been well delineated. We sought to improve understanding of this process in order to provide insight into mechanisms of sensitivity and/or resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors and to uncover new targets for therapy.
Methods and Findings
Using a panel of human lung cancer cell lines that harbor EGFR mutations and a variety of biochemical, molecular, and cellular techniques, we show that EGFR kinase inhibition in drug-sensitive cells provokes apoptosis via the intrinsic pathway of caspase activation. The process requires induction of the proapoptotic BH3-only BCL2 family member BIM (i.e., BCL2-like 11, or BCL2L11); erlotinib dramatically induces BIM levels in sensitive but not in resistant cell lines, and knockdown of BIM expression by RNA interference virtually eliminates drug-induced cell killing in vitro. BIM status is regulated at both transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels and is influenced by the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling cascade downstream of EGFR. Consistent with these findings, lung tumors and xenografts from mice bearing mutant EGFR-dependent lung adenocarcinomas display increased concentrations of Bim after erlotinib treatment. Moreover, an inhibitor of antiapoptotic proteins, ABT-737, enhances erlotinib-induced cell death in vitro.
Conclusions
In drug-sensitive EGFR mutant lung cancer cells, induction of BIM is essential for apoptosis triggered by EGFR kinase inhibitors. This finding implies that the intrinsic pathway of caspase activation may influence sensitivity and/or resistance of EGFR mutant lung tumor cells to EGFR kinase inhibition. Manipulation of the intrinsic pathway could be a therapeutic strategy to enhance further the clinical outcomes of patients with EGFR mutant lung tumors.
Using a panel of human drug-sensitive EGFR mutant lung cancer cells, William Pao and colleagues show that induction of BIM, a member of the BCL2 family, is essential for apoptosis triggered by EGFR kinase inhibitors.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Lung cancer, a common type of cancer, has a very low cure rate. Like all cancers, it occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genes. Chemotherapy drugs kill these rapidly dividing cells but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to destroy the cancer without causing serious side effects. Recently, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to some patients with cancer. These therapies attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably but leave normal cells unscathed. One of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed was the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive uncontrolled cell division in some cancers so blocking the EGFR signaling pathway should stop these cancers growing. Indeed, some lung cancers with mutations in the tyrosine kinase of EGFR shrink dramatically when treated with gefitinib or erlotinib, two tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).
Why Was This Study Done?
TKI-sensitive lung cancers shrink when treated with TKIs because of drug-induced cell death, but what are the molecular mechanisms underlying this death? A better understanding of how TKIs kill cancer cells might provide new insights into why not all cancer cells with mutations in EGFR (the gene from which EGFR is made) are sensitive to TKIs. It might also uncover new targets for therapy. TKIs do not completely kill lung cancers, but if the mechanism of TKI-induced cell death were understood, it might be possible to enhance their effects. In this study, the researchers have investigated how cell death occurs after kinase inhibition in a panel of human lung cancer cell lines (cells isolated from human tumors that grow indefinitely in dishes) that carry EGFR mutations.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers show, first, that erlotinib induces a type of cell death called apoptosis in erlotinib-sensitive cell lines but not in resistant cell lines. Apoptosis can be activated by two major pathways. In this instance, the researchers report, the so-called “intrinsic” pathway activates apoptosis. This pathway is stimulated by proapoptotic members of the BCL2 family of proteins and is blocked by antiapoptotic members, so the researchers examined the effect of erlotinib treatment on the expression of BCL2 family members in the EGFR mutant cell lines. Erlotinib treatment increased the expression of the proapoptotic protein BIM in sensitive but not in resistant cell lines. It also removed phosphate groups from BIM—dephosphorylated BIM is a more potent proapoptotic protein. Conversely, blocking BIM expression using a technique called RNA interference virtually eliminated the ability of erlotinib to kill EGFR mutant cell lines. The researchers also report that erlotinib treatment increased BIM expression in erlotinib-sensitive lung tumors growing in mice and that an inhibitor of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL2 enhanced erlotinib-induced death in drug-sensitive cells growing in dishes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that BIM activity is essential for the apoptosis triggered by TKIs in drug-sensitive lung cancer cells that carry EGFR mutations, and that treatment of these cells with TKIs induces both the expression and dephosphorylation of BIM. The finding that the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation is involved in TKI-induced cell death suggests that changes in this pathway (possibly mutations in some of its components) might influence the sensitivity of EGFR mutant lung cancers to TKIs. Finally, these findings suggest that giving drugs that affect the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis activation at the same time as TKIs might further improve the clinical outcome for patients with EGFR mutant tumors. Such combinations will have to be tested in clinical trials before being used routinely.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040294.
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information for patients from Cancer Research UK on lung cancer including information on treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on apoptosis, epidermal growth factor receptor, and BCL-2 proteins (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information for patients from Cancerbackup on erlotinib and gefitinib
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040294
PMCID: PMC2001209  PMID: 17927446
5.  Polymorphisms, Mutations, and Amplification of the EGFR Gene in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e125.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene is the prototype member of the type I receptor tyrosine kinase (TK) family and plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation and differentiation. There are three well described polymorphisms that are associated with increased protein production in experimental systems: a polymorphic dinucleotide repeat (CA simple sequence repeat 1 [CA-SSR1]) in intron one (lower number of repeats) and two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter region, −216 (G/T or T/T) and −191 (C/A or A/A). The objective of this study was to examine distributions of these three polymorphisms and their relationships to each other and to EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalance (AI) in non-small cell lung cancers.
Methods and Findings
We examined the frequencies of the three polymorphisms of EGFR in 556 resected lung cancers and corresponding non-malignant lung tissues from 336 East Asians, 213 individuals of Northern European descent, and seven of other ethnicities. We also studied the EGFR gene in 93 corresponding non-malignant lung tissue samples from European-descent patients from Italy and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 250 normal healthy US individuals enrolled in epidemiological studies including individuals of European descent, African–Americans, and Mexican–Americans. We sequenced the four exons (18–21) of the TK domain known to harbor activating mutations in tumors and examined the status of the CA-SSR1 alleles (presence of heterozygosity, repeat number of the alleles, and relative amplification of one allele) and allele-specific amplification of mutant tumors as determined by a standardized semiautomated method of microsatellite analysis. Variant forms of SNP −216 (G/T or T/T) and SNP −191 (C/A or A/A) (associated with higher protein production in experimental systems) were less frequent in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Both alleles of CA-SSR1 were significantly longer in East Asians than in individuals of other ethnicities (p < 0.001). Expression studies using bronchial epithelial cultures demonstrated a trend towards increased mRNA expression in cultures having the variant SNP −216 G/T or T/T genotypes. Monoallelic amplification of the CA-SSR1 locus was present in 30.6% of the informative cases and occurred more often in individuals of East Asian ethnicity. AI was present in 44.4% (95% confidence interval: 34.1%–54.7%) of mutant tumors compared with 25.9% (20.6%–31.2%) of wild-type tumors (p = 0.002). The shorter allele in tumors with AI in East Asian individuals was selectively amplified (shorter allele dominant) more often in mutant tumors (75.0%, 61.6%–88.4%) than in wild-type tumors (43.5%, 31.8%–55.2%, p = 0.003). In addition, there was a strong positive association between AI ratios of CA-SSR1 alleles and AI of mutant alleles.
Conclusions
The three polymorphisms associated with increased EGFR protein production (shorter CA-SSR1 length and variant forms of SNPs −216 and −191) were found to be rare in East Asians as compared to other ethnicities, suggesting that the cells of East Asians may make relatively less intrinsic EGFR protein. Interestingly, especially in tumors from patients of East Asian ethnicity, EGFR mutations were found to favor the shorter allele of CA-SSR1, and selective amplification of the shorter allele of CA-SSR1 occurred frequently in tumors harboring a mutation. These distinct molecular events targeting the same allele would both be predicted to result in greater EGFR protein production and/or activity. Our findings may help explain to some of the ethnic differences observed in mutational frequencies and responses to TK inhibitors.
Masaharu Nomura and colleagues examine the distribution ofEGFR polymorphisms in different populations and find differences that might explain different responses to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer patients.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Most cases of lung cancer—the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide—are “non-small cell lung cancer” (NSCLC), which has a very low cure rate. Recently, however, “targeted” therapies have brought new hope to patients with NSCLC. Like all cancers, NSCLC occurs when cells begin to divide uncontrollably because of changes (mutations) in their genetic material. Chemotherapy drugs treat cancer by killing these rapidly dividing cells, but, because some normal tissues are sensitive to these agents, it is hard to kill the cancer completely without causing serious side effects. Targeted therapies specifically attack the changes in cancer cells that allow them to divide uncontrollably, so it might be possible to kill the cancer cells selectively without damaging normal tissues. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGRF) was one of the first molecules for which a targeted therapy was developed. In normal cells, messenger proteins bind to EGFR and activate its “tyrosine kinase,” an enzyme that sticks phosphate groups on tyrosine (an amino acid) in other proteins. These proteins then tell the cell to divide. Alterations to this signaling system drive the uncontrolled growth of some cancers, including NSCLC.
Why Was This Study Done?
Molecules that inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR (for example, gefitinib) dramatically shrink some NSCLCs, particularly those in East Asian patients. Tumors shrunk by tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) often (but not always) have mutations in EGFR's tyrosine kinase. However, not all tumors with these mutations respond to TKIs, and other genetic changes—for example, amplification (multiple copies) of the EGFR gene—also affect tumor responses to TKIs. It would be useful to know which genetic changes predict these responses when planning treatments for NSCLC and to understand why the frequency of these changes varies between ethnic groups. In this study, the researchers have examined three polymorphisms—differences in DNA sequences that occur between individuals—in the EGFR gene in people with and without NSCLC. In addition, they have looked for associations between these polymorphisms, which are present in every cell of the body, and the EGFR gene mutations and allelic imbalances (genes occur in pairs but amplification or loss of one copy, or allele, often causes allelic imbalance in tumors) that occur in NSCLCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured how often three EGFR polymorphisms (the length of a repeat sequence called CA-SSR1, and two single nucleotide variations [SNPs])—all of which probably affect how much protein is made from the EGFR gene—occurred in normal tissue and NSCLC tissue from East Asians and individuals of European descent. They also looked for mutations in the EGFR tyrosine kinase and allelic imbalance in the tumors, and then determined which genetic variations and alterations tended to occur together in people with the same ethnicity. Among many associations, the researchers found that shorter alleles of CA-SSR1 and the minor forms of the two SNPs occurred less often in East Asians than in individuals of European descent. They also confirmed that EGFR kinase mutations were more common in NSCLCs in East Asians than in European-descent individuals. Furthermore, mutations occurred more often in tumors with allelic imbalance, and in tumors where there was allelic imbalance and an EGFR mutation, the mutant allele was amplified more often than the wild-type allele.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use these associations between gene variants and tumor-associated alterations to propose a model to explain the ethnic differences in mutational frequencies and responses to TKIs seen in NSCLC. They suggest that because of the polymorphisms in the EGFR gene commonly seen in East Asians, people from this ethnic group make less EGFR protein than people from other ethnic groups. This would explain why, if a threshold level of EGFR is needed to drive cells towards malignancy, East Asians have a high frequency of amplified EGFR tyrosine kinase mutations in their tumors—mutation followed by amplification would be needed to activate EGFR signaling. This model, though speculative, helps to explain some clinical findings, such as the frequency of EGFR mutations and of TKI sensitivity in NSCLCs in East Asians. Further studies of this type in different ethnic groups and in different tumors, as well as with other genes for which targeted therapies are available, should help oncologists provide personalized cancer therapies for their patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040125.
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer and on cancer treatment for patients and professionals
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on NSCLC
Cancer Research UK information for patients about all aspects of lung cancer, including treatment with TKIs
Wikipedia pages on lung cancer, EGFR, and gefitinib (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040125
PMCID: PMC1876407  PMID: 17455987
6.  Targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor in non-small cell lung cancer cells: the effect of combining RNA interference with tyrosine kinase inhibitors or cetuximab 
BMC Medicine  2012;10:28.
Background
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a validated therapeutic target in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, current single agent receptor targeting does not achieve a maximal therapeutic effect, and some mutations confer resistance to current available agents. In the current study we have examined, in different NSCLC cell lines, the combined effect of RNA interference targeting the EGFR mRNA, and inactivation of EGFR signaling using different receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) or a monoclonal antibody cetuximab.
Methods
NSCLC cells (cell lines HCC827, H292, H358, H1650, and H1975) were transfected with EGFR siRNA and/or treated with the TKIs gefitinib, erlotinib, and afatinib, and/or with the monoclonal antibody cetuximab. The reduction of EGFR mRNA expression was measured by real-time quantitative RT-PCR. The down-regulation of EGFR protein expression was measured by western blot, and the proliferation, viability, caspase3/7 activity, and apoptotic morphology were monitored by spectrophotometry, fluorimetry, and fluorescence microscopy. The combined effect of EGFR siRNA and different drugs was evaluated using a combination index.
Results
EGFR-specific siRNA strongly inhibited EGFR protein expression almost equally in all cell lines and inhibited cell growth and induced cell apoptosis in all NSCLC cell lines studied, albeit with a different magnitude. The effects on growth obtained with siRNA was strikingly different from the effects obtained with TKIs. The effects of siRNA probably correlate with the overall oncogenic significance of the receptor, which is only partly inhibited by the TKIs. The cells which showed weak response to TKIs, such as the H1975 cell line containing the T790M resistance mutation, were found to be responsive to siRNA knockdown of EGFR, as were cell lines with downstream TKI resistance mutations. The cell line HCC827, harboring an exon 19 deletion mutation, was more than 10-fold more sensitive to TKI proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induction than any of the other cell lines. Cetuximab alone had no relevant in vitro activity at concentrations obtainable in the clinic. The addition of EGFR siRNA to either TKIs or cetuximab additively enhanced growth inhibition and induction of apoptosis in all five cell lines, independent of the EGFR mutation status (wild-type or sensitizing mutation or resistant mutation). The strongest biological effect was observed when afatinib was combined with an EGFR-specific siRNA.
Conclusions
EGFR knockdown by siRNA further decreases the cell growth of lung cancer cells that are treated with TKIs or cetuximab alone, confirming that single agent drug targeting does not achieve a maximal biological effect. The siRNA inhibits EGFR oncogenic activity that bypasses downstream "resistance" mutations such as KRAS and PTEN. The combined treatment of siRNA and EGFR inhibitory agents is additive. The combination of a potent, irreversible kinase inhibitor such as afatinib, with EGFR-specific siRNAs should be further investigated as a new strategy in the treatment of lung cancer and other EGFR dependent cancers, including those with downstream resistance mutations.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-28
PMCID: PMC3334713  PMID: 22436374
EGFR; RNA interference; tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs); anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies (mAbs); proliferation; apoptosis; lung cancer
7.  Loss of Activating EGFR Mutant Gene Contributes to Acquired Resistance to EGFR Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Lung Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41017.
Non-small-cell lung cancer harboring epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations attains a meaningful response to EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs could affect long-term outcome in almost all patients. To identify the potential mechanisms of resistance, we established cell lines resistant to EGFR-TKIs from the human lung cancer cell lines PC9 and11–18, which harbored activating EGFR mutations. One erlotinib-resistant cell line from PC9 and two erlotinib-resistant cell lines and two gefitinib-resistant cell lines from 11–18 were independently established. Almost complete loss of mutant delE746-A750 EGFR gene was observed in the erlotinib-resistant cells isolated from PC9, and partial loss of the mutant L858R EGFR gene copy was specifically observed in the erlotinib- and gefitinib-resistant cells from 11–18. However, constitutive activation of EGFR downstream signaling, PI3K/Akt, was observed even after loss of the mutated EGFR gene in all resistant cell lines even in the presence of the drug. In the erlotinib-resistant cells from PC9, constitutive PI3K/Akt activation was effectively inhibited by lapatinib (a dual TKI of EGFR and HER2) or BIBW2992 (pan-TKI of EGFR family proteins). Furthermore, erlotinib with either HER2 or HER3 knockdown by their cognate siRNAs also inhibited PI3K/Akt activation. Transfection of activating mutant EGFR complementary DNA restored drug sensitivity in the erlotinib-resistant cell line. Our study indicates that loss of addiction to mutant EGFR resulted in gain of addiction to both HER2/HER3 and PI3K/Akt signaling to acquire EGFR-TKI resistance.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041017
PMCID: PMC3398867  PMID: 22815900
8.  EGFR and HER2 Genomic Gain in Recurrent Non-small Cell Lung Cancer After Surgery 
Journal of Thoracic Oncology  2009;4(3):318-325.
Background
Sensitivity to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and frequency of activation mutations in EGFR is lower in Caucasian than Asian non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. Increased EGFR gene copy numbers evaluated by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has been reported as predictor of clinical benefit from EGFR-TKIs in Caucasian NSCLC patients. This study was carried out to verify whether EGFR FISH had similar performance in Japanese patients.
Methods
A cohort of 44 Japanese patients with recurrent NSCLC after surgery was treated with gefitinib 250 mg daily. The cohort included 48% females and 52% never-smokers; 73% had prior chemotherapy and 57% had stage III-IV at the time of surgery. Adenocarcinoma was the most common histology (86%). FISH was performed using the EGFR/Chromosome Enumeration Probe 7 and PathVysion DNA probes (Abbott Molecular). Specimens were classified as FISH positive when showing gene amplification or high polysomy (≥4 copies of the gene in ≥40% of tumor cells). Tumor response to gefitinib was assessed by RECIST for 33 patients with measurable diseases.
Results
Twenty-nine tumors (66%) were EGFR FISH+ and 23 (53%) were HER2 FISH+. Overall response rate was 52%, representing 65% of EGFR FISH+ patients and 29% of EGFR FISH+ patients (p = 0.0777). Survival was not impacted by the EGFR FISH (p = 0.9395) or the HER2 FISH (p = 0.0671) status. EGFR FISH= was significantly associated with HER2 FISH+ (p = 0.015) and presence of EGFR mutation (p = 0.0060). EGFR mutation significantly correlated with response (p < 0.0001) and survival after gefitinib (p = 0.0204). EGFR and HER2 FISH status were not associated with KRAS mutation.
Conclusion
Frequency of EGFR FISH+ status was higher and its predictive power for TKI sensitivity was lower in this Japanese cohort than in Western NSCLC cohorts. These findings support differences in the mechanisms of EGFR pathway activation in NSCLC between Asian and Caucasian populations. Confirmation of these results in larger cohorts is warranted.
doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e31819667a3
PMCID: PMC3379811  PMID: 19247083
FISH; EGFR; HER2; KRAS; Biomarkers; NSCLC; Tyrosine inhibitors
9.  Oncogene Mutations, Copy Number Gains and Mutant Allele Specific Imbalance (MASI) Frequently Occur Together in Tumor Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7464.
Background
Activating mutations in one allele of an oncogene (heterozygous mutations) are widely believed to be sufficient for tumorigenesis. However, mutant allele specific imbalance (MASI) has been observed in tumors and cell lines harboring mutations of oncogenes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We determined 1) mutational status, 2) copy number gains (CNGs) and 3) relative ratio between mutant and wild type alleles of KRAS, BRAF, PIK3CA and EGFR genes by direct sequencing and quantitative PCR assay in over 400 human tumors, cell lines, and xenografts of lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Examination of a public database indicated that homozygous mutations of five oncogenes were frequent (20%) in 833 cell lines of 12 tumor types. Our data indicated two major forms of MASI: 1) MASI with CNG, either complete or partial; and 2) MASI without CNG (uniparental disomy; UPD), due to complete loss of wild type allele. MASI was a frequent event in mutant EGFR (75%) and was due mainly to CNGs, while MASI, also frequent in mutant KRAS (58%), was mainly due to UPD. Mutant: wild type allelic ratios at the genomic level were precisely maintained after transcription. KRAS mutations or CNGs were significantly associated with increased ras GTPase activity, as measured by ELISA, and the two molecular changes were synergistic. Of 237 lung adenocarcinoma tumors, the small number with both KRAS mutation and CNG were associated with shortened survival.
Conclusions
MASI is frequently present in mutant EGFR and KRAS tumor cells, and is associated with increased mutant allele transcription and gene activity. The frequent finding of mutations, CNGs and MASI occurring together in tumor cells indicates that these three genetic alterations, acting together, may have a greater role in the development or maintenance of the malignant phenotype than any individual alteration.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007464
PMCID: PMC2757721  PMID: 19826477
10.  Synergistic Effect of Afatinib with Su11274 in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells Resistant to Gefitinib or Erlotinib 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59708.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and c-MET receptors are expressed on many non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. Current single agent therapeutic targeting of a mutant EGFR has a high efficacy in the clinic, but is not curative. Here, we investigated the combination of targeting EGFR and c-MET pathways in NSCLC cells resistant to receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), using RNA interference and inhibition by TKIs. Different NSCLC cell lines with various genomic characteristics (H358, H1650 and H1975) were transfected with EGFR-specific-siRNA, T790M-specific-siRNA, c-MET siRNA or the combination. Subsequently EGFR TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib or afatinib) or monoclonal antibody cetuximab were combined respectively with the c-MET-specific TKI su11274 in NSCLC cell lines. The cell proliferation, viability, caspase−3/7 activity and apoptotic morphology were monitored by spectrophotometry, fluorimetry and fluorescence microscopy. The combined effect of EGFR TKIs, or cetuximab and su11274, was evaluated using a combination index. The results showed that the cell lines that were relatively resistant to EGFR TKIs, especially the H1975 cell line containing the resistance T790M mutation, were found to be more sensitive to EGFR-specific-siRNA. The combination of EGFR siRNA plus c-MET siRNA enhanced cell growth inhibition, apoptosis induction and inhibition of downstream signaling in EGFR TKI resistant H358, H1650 and H1975 cells, despite the absence of activity of the c-MET siRNA alone. EGFR TKIs or cetuximab plus su11274 were also consistently superior to either agent alone. The strongest biological effect was observed when afatinib, an irreversible pan-HER blocker was combined with su11274, which achieved a synergistic effect in the T790M mutant H1975 cells. In a conclusion, our findings offer preclinical proof of principle for combined inhibition as a promising treatment strategy for NSCLC, especially for patients in whom current EGFR-targeted treatments fail due to the presence of the T790M-EGFR-mutation or high c-MET expression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059708
PMCID: PMC3601073  PMID: 23527257
11.  Combined Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor and Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) Blockade Inhibits Tumor Growth in Xenograft Models of EGFR Inhibitor Resistance 
Purpose
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) gefitinib and erlotinib benefit some non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients, but most do not respond (primary resistance) and those who initially respond eventually progress (acquired resistance). EGFR TKI resistance is not completely understood and has been associated with certain EGFR and K-RAS mutations and MET amplification.
Experimental Design
We hypothesized that dual inhibition of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and EGFR pathways may overcome primary and acquired resistance. We investigated the VEGF receptor/EGFR TKI vandetanib, and the combination of bevacizumab and erlotinib in vivo using xenograft models of EGFR TKI sensitivity, primary resistance, and three models of acquired resistance, including models with mutated K-RAS and secondary EGFR T790M mutation.
Results
Vandetanib, gefitinib, and erlotinib had similar profiles of in vitro activity and caused sustained tumor regressions in vivo in the sensitive HCC827 model. In all four resistant models, vandetanib and bevacizumab/erlotinib were significantly more effective than erlotinib or gefitinib alone. Erlotinib resistance was associated with a rise in both host and tumor-derived VEGF but not EGFR secondary mutations in the KRAS mutant-bearing A549 xenografts. Dual inhibition reduced tumor endothelial proliferation compared with VEGF or EGFR blockade alone, suggesting that the enhanced activity of dual inhibition is due at least in part to antiendothelial effects.
Conclusion
These studies suggest that erlotinib resistance may be associated with a rise in both tumor cell and host stromal VEGF and that combined blockade of the VEGFR and EGFR pathways can abrogate primary or acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs. This approach merits further evaluation in NSCLC patients.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2904
PMCID: PMC2893040  PMID: 19447865
12.  Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Romidepsin Enhances Anti-Tumor Effect of Erlotinib in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Cell Lines 
Introduction
Most epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) are sensitive to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as erlotinib or gefitinib, but many EGFR wild type NSCLCs are resistant to TKIs. In this study, we examined the effects of the histone deacetylase inhibitor, romidepsin, in combination with erlotinib, in NSCLC cell lines and xenografts.
Methods
For in vitro studies, nine NSCLC cell lines with varying mutation status and histology were treated with erlotinib and romidepsin alone or in combination. 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium assays were performed to determine the concentration that inhibits 50% (IC50) value of each drug or the combination. For in vivo studies, NCI-H1299 xenografts were inoculated subcutaneously into athymic nude mice. Romidepsin and/or erlotinib were injected intraperitoneally after tumors developed and tumor sizes were measured.
Results
We found that romidepsin increased the sensitivity of erlotinib synergistically in all nine NSCLC cell lines including EGFR and KRAS wild type cell lines, KRAS mutant cell lines, and TKI resistant EGFR mutant cell lines. This effect was partially due to enhanced apoptosis. Furthermore, cotreatment of erlotinib and romidepsin inhibited NCI-H1299 xenograft growth in athymic nude mice.
Conclusions
These observations support a role for the combination of a histone deacetylase inhibitor and a TKI in the treatment of NSCLCs.
doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e318194fae7
PMCID: PMC2758160  PMID: 19179890
Erlotinib; Romidepsin; Non-small cell lung cancer; Epidermal growth factor receptor; KRAS
13.  Activating and resistance mutations of EGFR in non-small-cell lung cancer: role in clinical response to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors 
Oncogene  2009;28(Suppl 1):S24-S31.
The epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR TKIs), gefitinib and erlotinib, are reversible competitive inhibitors of the tyrosine kinase domain of EGFR that bind to its adenosine-5′ triphosphate-binding site. Somatic activating mutations of the EGFR gene, increased gene copy number and certain clinical and pathological features have been associated with dramatic tumor responses and favorable clinical outcomes with these agents in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The specific types of activating mutations that confer sensitivity to EGFR TKIs are present in the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain of the EGFR gene. Exon 19 deletion mutations and the single-point substitution mutation L858R in exon 21 are the most frequent in NSCLC and are termed ‘classical’ mutations. The NSCLC tumors insensitive to EGFR TKIs include those driven by the KRAS and MET oncogenes. Most patients who initially respond to gefitinib and erlotinib eventually become resistant and experience progressive disease. The point mutation T790M accounts for about one half of these cases of acquired resistance. Various second-generation EGFR TKIs are currently being evaluated and may have the potential to overcome T790M-mediated resistance by virtue of their irreversible inhibition of the receptor TK domain.
doi:10.1038/onc.2009.198
PMCID: PMC2849651  PMID: 19680293
epidermal growth factor receptor; mutation; non-small-cell lung cancer; tyrosine kinase inhibitor; tyrosine kinase
14.  Molecular predictors of response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in patients with Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Introduction
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have become a treatment option in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. However, despite their use in this disease, a significant number of patients will eventually develop resistance and relapse. In this study, we aimed to characterize several molecular events involved in potential resistance mechanisms to anti-EGFR treatment and correlate our findings with clinical outcome.
Material and methods
The medical records of patients with NSCLC who received anti-EGFR TKIs in any line within the participating centers were reviewed and available paraffin embedded tissue was retrieved. Mutational analysis for EGFR, KRAS, BRAF and intron-exon 14 deletions of MET; FISH analysis for chromosomal gain or amplification for EGFR, MET and the deletion marker D7S486 were performed. Furthermore, the expression of EGFR and MET were analysed by immunohistochemistry. All results were correlated with treatment outcomes.
Results
Between 10/2001 and 12/2009 from an initial cohort of 72 treated patients, 59 cases (28 gefitinib/ 31 erlotinib) were included in the analysis. The majority had adenocarcinoma histology (68%), and received treatment in the second line setting (56%). Disease control rate (DCR) was 25.4% for all patients. EGFR and RAS mutational rates were 33% and 10% respectively, no other mutations were identified. High EGFR expressing tumors were found in 7 of 45 cases and pEGFR positivity (IHC) was found in 56% of the cases; MET expression was found in 48% of tumors. EGFR gene amplification was found in 4 cases, two cases showed high polysomy; overall, 13% cases were FISH positive for EGFR. High polysomy of MET gene was detected in 1/43 cases tested. D7S486 locus deletion was detected in 15/37 (40%) of cases. EGFR mutational status and gene gain were both associated with more favorable DCR. No other associations between examined biomarkers and DCR or survival were noted.
Conclusions
EGFR mutational status is a predictor for disease control in patients with NSCLC treated with anti-EGFR TKIs. The predictive role of several other molecules involved in potential resistance to anti-EGFR TKIs is worthy of additional investigation.
doi:10.1186/1756-9966-31-77
PMCID: PMC3533816  PMID: 22992338
Predictive; Somatic mutation; EGFR; Gefitinib; Erlotinib; Response
15.  Impact of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor and KRAS Mutations on Clinical Outcomes in Previously Untreated Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients: Results of an Online Tumor Registry of Clinical Trials 
Purpose
The impact of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and KRAS genotypes on outcomes with erlotinib or gefitinib therapy continues to be debated. This study combines patient data from five trials in predominantly Western populations to assess the impact of EGFR and KRAS mutations on first-line therapy with an EGFR–tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) and compare clinical versus molecular predictors of sensitivity.
Experimental Design
Chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer and known EGFR mutation status treated with erlotinib or gefitinib monotherapy as part of a clinical trial were eligible for inclusion. Patients received daily erlotinib (150 mg) or gefitinib (250 mg) until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Data were collected in a password-protected web database. Clinical outcomes were analyzed to look for differences based on EGFR and KRAS genotypes, as well as clinical characteristics.
Results
Patients (223) from five clinical trials were included. Sensitizing EGFR mutations were associated with a 67% response rate, time to progression (TTP) of 11.8 months, and overall survival of 23.9 months. Exon 19 deletions were associated with longer median TTP and overall survival compared with L858R mutations. Wild-type EGFR was associated with poorer outcomes (response rate, 3%; TTP, 3.2 months) irrespective of KRAS status. No difference in outcome was seen between patients harboring KRAS transition versus transversion mutations. EGFR genotype was more effective than clinical characteristics at selecting appropriate patients for consideration of first-line therapy with an EGFR-TKI.
Conclusion
EGFR mutation status is associated with sensitivity to treatment with an EGFR-TKI in patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer. Patients harboring sensitizing EGFR mutations should be considered for first-line erlotinib or gefitinib.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-0888
PMCID: PMC3219530  PMID: 19671843
16.  Gene Mutation Analysis in EGFR Wild Type NSCLC Responsive to Erlotinib: Are There Features to Guide Patient Selection? 
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are very efficacious in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients harboring activating Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) mutations. However, about 10% of EGFR wild type (wt) patients respond to TKI, with unknown molecular mechanisms of sensitivity. We considered a case series of 34 EGFR wt NSCLC patients responsive to erlotinib after at least one line of therapy. Responsive patients were matched with an equal number of non-responsive EGFR wt patients. A panel of 26 genes, for a total of 214 somatic mutations, was analyzed by MassARRAY® System (Sequenom, San Diego, CA, USA). A 15% KRAS mutation was observed in both groups, with a prevalence of G12C in non-responders (80% vs. 40% in responders). NOTCH1, p53 and EGFR-resistance-related mutations were found more frequently in non-responders, whereas EGFR-sensitizing mutations and alterations in genes involved in proliferation pathways were more frequent in responders. In conclusion, our findings indicate that p53, NOTCH1 and exon 20 EGFR mutations seem to be related to TKI resistance. KRAS mutations do not appear to influence the TKI response, although G12C mutation is more frequent in non-responders. Finally, the use of highly sensitive methodologies could lead to the identification of under-represented EGFR mutations potentially associated with TKI sensitivity.
doi:10.3390/ijms16010747
PMCID: PMC4307273  PMID: 25561229
NSCLC; erlotinib; EGFR wt; p53; KRAS
17.  Genotype-driven therapies for non-small cell lung cancer: focus on EGFR, KRAS and ALK gene abnormalities 
Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) are heterogeneous cancers. In 2004, the identification of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) somatic mutations provided the first glimpse of a clinically relevant NSCLC oncogene. Approximately 70% of NSCLCs with EGFR mutations (exon 19 deletions or the exon 21 L858R) attain responses to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib and erlotinib, with improved response rate (RR), progression-free survival (PFS) and in some reports overall survival (OS) when compared with EGFR wildtype (WT) cases. Three randomized trials of gefitinib versus chemotherapy (IPASS, WJTOG3405, NEJ002) in stage IV NSCLC have consistently demonstrated better RR and PFS (hazard ratios of 0.48 [IPASS], 0.49 [WJTOG3405] and 0.30 [NEJ002]) for EGFR-mutated NSCLCs treated with gefitinib. Novel irreversible EGFR TKIs (afatinib, XL647, PF00299804) show similar activity in EGFR-mutated patients. A translocation involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene with EML4, identified in 2007, is the most recent oncogene found in NSCLC. Crizotinib (PF02341066), an ALK TKI, has shown impressive activity against ALK translocated NSCLC in an expanded cohort of a phase I trial (NCT00585195). Over 80 patients have been treated and the RR is ∼60% with the 6-month PFS rate exceeding 70%. A registration phase III trial of crizotinib versus second-line chemotherapy (pemetrexed/docetaxel) is underway (PROFILE 1007, NCT00932893). KRAS, EGFR mutations and ALK translocations are mutually exclusive and few EGFR WT NSCLCs respond to EGFR TKIs. The promising results of EGFR and ALK TKIs in molecular subgroups of NSCLCs herald a new age of drug and clinical trial development for patients with NSCLC.
doi:10.1177/1758834010397569
PMCID: PMC3150063  PMID: 21904575
ALK; ALK inhibitor; EGFR; EGFR inhibitor; KRAS; lung cancer; metastasis; mutation; non-small cell lung cancer
18.  Erlotinib at a dose of 25 mg daily for non-small-cell lung cancers with EGFR mutations 
Purpose
The tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) gefitinib and erlotinib are effective in non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations. The usual clinical dose of gefitinib (250 mg/day) is only one third of its maximum tolerated dose (MTD), while the dose of erlotinib (150 mg/day) is at its MTD. In NSCLC cell lines both TKIs have similar micromolar (μM) inhibitory concentrations. We explored if erlotinib at 25 mg/day (trough serum concentration similar to gefitinib 250 mg/day) would be efficacious in EGFR mutated NSCLC.
Methods
To study inhibitory concentrations of gefitinib and erlotinib, we exposed EGFR mutated cell lines (HCC827, H3255, PC-9, H1975) to increasing concentrations of these TKIs. Further on, we performed a retrospective evaluation of seven patients with advanced EGFR mutated (exon 19 deletions and L858R) NSCLC that were given erlotinib at 25 mg/day as their first EGFR TKI.
Results
Gefitinib and erlotinib generated similar inhibitory curves across our panel of EGFR mutated NSCLC cell lines with overlapping mean IC50 95% confidence intervals (CI) for HCC827, PC-9 and H1975. Both drugs also displayed a high degree of correlation in mean IC50 (Pearson’s r = 0.99, p = 0.0417). Of the 7 patients, 5 (71.5%) had partial responses to erlotinib 25 mg/day. Median progression-free survival (PFS) was 17 months (95% CI, 6 - 35 months). Toxicities were minimal with only 2 (28.5 %) patients having a rash and none experiencing (0%) diarrhea.
Conclusions
In NSCLC cell lines, gefitinib and erlotinib have similar inhibitory profiles. In patients with NSCLC and EGFR activating mutations, a dose of erlotinib 25 mg/day (equivalent to gefitinib 250 mg/day) leads to impressive response rates and PFS similar to the growing experience with the approved doses of gefitinib (250 mg/day) and erlotinib (150 mg/day). Identifying prospectively the lowest and clinically active dose ranges of erlotinib and gefitinib will help further personalize care for patients with tumors harboring EGFR mutations.
doi:10.1097/JTO.0b013e3181dd1386
PMCID: PMC2893286  PMID: 20512075
Epidermal growth factor receptor; EGFR; mutation; tyrosine kinase inhibitors; gefitinib; erlotinib; L858R; exon 19 deletions; lung cancer; non-small cell lung cancer
19.  The Role of Irreversible HER Family Inhibition in the Treatment of Patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
The Oncologist  2011;16(11):1498-1507.
The clinical development of irreversible tyrosine kinase inhibitors that target the human epidermal growth factor receptor family in non-small cell lung cancer is reviewed.
Small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) of the human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) include the reversible epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/HER-1) inhibitors gefitinib and erlotinib. EGFR TKIs have demonstrated activity in the treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) harboring activating EGFR mutations; however, multiple mechanisms of resistance limit the benefit of these drugs. Although resistance to EGFR TKIs can be intrinsic and correlated with molecular lesions such as in Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (KRAS; generally observed in a wild-type EGFR background), acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs can evolve in the setting of activating EGFR mutations, such as in the case of EGFR T790M mutations. Several irreversible inhibitors that target multiple members of the HER family simultaneously are currently in clinical development for NSCLC and may have a role in the treatment of TKI-sensitive and TKI-resistant disease. These include PF00299804, an inhibitor of EGFR/HER-1, HER-2, and HER-4, and afatinib (BIBW 2992), an inhibitor of EGFR/HER-1, HER-2, and HER-4. Results of large, randomized trials of these agents may help to determine their potential for the treatment of NSCLC.
doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0087
PMCID: PMC3233283  PMID: 22016476
Irreversible EGFR/HER-2 tyrosine kinase inhibitors; Non-small cell lung cancer; Resistance; Afatinib (BIBW 2992); PF00299804
20.  Structural, biochemical and clinical characterization of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) exon 20 insertion mutations in lung cancer 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(216):216ra177.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutations (G719X, exon 19 deletions/insertions, L858R and L861Q) predict favorable responses to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, EGFR exon 20 insertion mutations (∼10% of all EGFR mutations) are generally associated with insensitivity to available TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib and afatinib). The basis of this primary resistance is poorly understood.  We study a broad subset of exon 20 insertion mutations, comparing in vitro TKI sensitivity with responses to gefitinib and erlotinib in NSCLC patients; and find that most are resistant to EGFR TKIs. The crystal structure of a representative TKI-insensitive mutant (D770_N771insNPG) reveals an unaltered ATP-binding pocket and the inserted residues form a wedge at the end of the C-helix that promotes the active kinase conformation. Unlike EGFR-L858R, D770_N771insNPG activates EGFR without increasing its affinity for EGFR TKIs. Unexpectedly, we find that EGFR-A763_Y764insFQEA is highly sensitive to EGFR TKIs in vitro; and patients whose NSCLCs harbor this mutation respond to erlotinib. Analysis of the A763_Y764insFQEA mutant indicates that the inserted residues shift the register of the C-helix in the N-terminal direction, altering the structure in the region that is also affected by the TKI-sensitive EGFR-L858R. Our studies reveal intricate differences between EGFR mutations, their biology and their response to EGFR TKIs.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3007205
PMCID: PMC3954775  PMID: 24353160
lung cancer; non-small-cell lung cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor; EGFR; erlotinib; gefitinib; afatinib; exon 20 insertion; x-ray crystallography
21.  The Impact of Initial Gefitinib or Erlotinib versus Chemotherapy on Central Nervous System Progression in Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer with EGFR Mutations 
Purpose
This retrospective study was undertaken to investigate the impact of initial gefitinib or erlotinib (EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, EGFR-TKI) versus chemotherapy on the risk of central nervous system (CNS) progression in advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with EGFR mutations.
Experimental Design
Patients with stage IV or relapsed NSCLC with a sensitizing EGFR mutation initially treated with gefitinib, erlotinib, or chemotherapy were identified. The cumulative risk of CNS progression was calculated using death as a competing risk.
Results
One hundred and fifty-five patients were eligible (EGFR-TKI: 101, chemotherapy: 54). Twenty-four patients (24%) in the EGFR-TKI group and 12 patients (22%) in the chemotherapy group had brain metastases at the time of diagnosis of advanced NSCLC (P = 1.000); 32 of the 36 received CNS therapy before initiating systemic treatment. Thirty-three patients (33%) in the EGFR-TKI group and 26 patients (48%) in the chemotherapy group developed CNS progression after a median follow-up of 25 months. The 6-, 12-, and 24-month cumulative risk of CNS progression was 1%, 6%, and 21% in the EGFR-TKI group compared with corresponding rates of 7%, 19%, and 32% in the chemotherapy group (P = 0.026). The HR of CNS progression for upfront EGFR-TKI versus chemotherapy was 0.56 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.34–0.94].
Conclusions
Our data show lower rates of CNS progression in EGFR-mutant advanced NSCLC patients initially treated with an EGFR-TKI compared with upfront chemotherapy. If validated, our results suggest that gefitinib and erlotinib may have a role in the chemoprevention of CNS metastases from NSCLC.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-0357
PMCID: PMC3682221  PMID: 22733536
22.  Clinical utility of erlotinib for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer in Japanese patients: current evidence 
Gefitinib, an epidermal growth factor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI), has been approved in Japan for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) based on Phase II clinical trials since 2002. Erlotinib, another EGFR-TKI, was also approved a few years thereafter. In 2004, activating mutations in the EGFR gene were discovered to be a predictive biomarker for EGFR-TKI treatment, and gefitinib, which is not effective for patients with EGFR wild-type NSCLC, has since been used only in patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC. In contrast, erlotinib is potentially effective for the treatment of EGFR wild-type NSCLC. Similar to gefitinib, erlotinib is also effective for EGFR-mutated NSCLC and has been used as an initial treatment for patients with advanced EGFR-mutated NSCLC. Both gefitinib and erlotinib can be used in a Japanese clinical setting. The approved daily dose of erlotinib (150 mg) is equal to the maximum tolerated dose of erlotinib. In contrast, the daily dose of gefitinib has been set at 250 mg, which is approximately one-third of the maximum tolerated dose of gefitinib. Accordingly, a higher serum concentration can be achieved using erlotinib, compared with gefitinib. This advantage can be applied to the treatment of central nervous system metastases (brain metastasis and carcinomatous meningitis), the treatment of which is complicated by the difficulty drugs have penetrating the blood–brain barrier. Although patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC respond dramatically to EGFR-TKIs, some patients have a poor response and the majority eventually undergo disease progression. To overcome such resistance, several novel treatment strategies, such as combination therapy and next-generation EGFR-TKIs, have been attempted.
doi:10.2147/DDDT.S50358
PMCID: PMC4124069  PMID: 25114510
non-small-cell lung cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor; erlotinib; EGFR mutation
23.  Sequence-Dependent Antiproliferative Effects of Gefitinib and Docetaxel on Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Cells and the Possible Mechanism 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114074.
Purpose
Recent clinical trials showed that the sequential combination of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) and chemotherapy could prolong the PFS and/or OS of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with EGFR mutation. The aim of present study was to assess the optimal combination sequence and to explore its possible mechanism.
Methods
PC-9 cells and A549 cells, the lung adenocarcinoma cells with mutant and wide-type EGFR respectively, were treated with docetaxel/gefitinib alone or in different combination schedules. The EGFR and K-ras gene status was determined by qPCR-HRM technique. Cell proliferation was detected by MTT assay. The expression and phosphorylation of EGFR, ERK, Akt and IGF-1R were detected by western blot. Cell cycle distribution was observed by flow cytometry.
Results
Only sequential administration of docetaxel followed by gefitinib (D→G) induced significant synergistic effect in both cell lines (Combination Index<0.9). The reverse sequence (G→D) resulted in an antagonistic interaction in both cell lines (CI>1.1), whereas the concurrent administration (D+G) showed additive (0.9
Conclusions
The cytotoxic drugs followed by EGFR-TKIs may be the optimal combination for antiproliferative effects in EGFR-mutant NSCLC cells, and the phosphorylation of EGFR and ERK might contribute to this effect.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114074
PMCID: PMC4256223  PMID: 25474307
BMC Genomics  2006;7:289.
Background
Increased focus surrounds identifying patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who will benefit from treatment with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). EGFR mutation, gene copy number, coexpression of ErbB proteins and ligands, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition markers all correlate with EGFR TKI sensitivity, and while prediction of sensitivity using any one of the markers does identify responders, individual markers do not encompass all potential responders due to high levels of inter-patient and inter-tumor variability. We hypothesized that a multivariate predictor of EGFR TKI sensitivity based on gene expression data would offer a clinically useful method of accounting for the increased variability inherent in predicting response to EGFR TKI and for elucidation of mechanisms of aberrant EGFR signalling. Furthermore, we anticipated that this methodology would result in improved predictions compared to single parameters alone both in vitro and in vivo.
Results
Gene expression data derived from cell lines that demonstrate differential sensitivity to EGFR TKI, such as erlotinib, were used to generate models for a priori prediction of response. The gene expression signature of EGFR TKI sensitivity displays significant biological relevance in lung cancer biology in that pertinent signalling molecules and downstream effector molecules are present in the signature. Diagonal linear discriminant analysis using this gene signature was highly effective in classifying out-of-sample cancer cell lines by sensitivity to EGFR inhibition, and was more accurate than classifying by mutational status alone. Using the same predictor, we classified human lung adenocarcinomas and captured the majority of tumors with high levels of EGFR activation as well as those harbouring activating mutations in the kinase domain. We have demonstrated that predictive models of EGFR TKI sensitivity can classify both out-of-sample cell lines and lung adenocarcinomas.
Conclusion
These data suggest that multivariate predictors of response to EGFR TKI have potential for clinical use and likely provide a robust and accurate predictor of EGFR TKI sensitivity that is not achieved with single biomarkers or clinical characteristics in non-small cell lung cancers.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-7-289
PMCID: PMC1660550  PMID: 17096850
Journal of Thoracic Disease  2011;3(1):10-18.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as gefitinib and erlotinib are promising therapies for patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Patients with somatic activating mutations in the EGFR gene have dramatic response initially, but would eventually develop resistance to these TKIs. Subsequent studies found that a secondary mutation in the EGFR gene (T790M mutation) and amplification of the MET proto-oncogene could be the main resistance mechanisms involved. The current review is focused on T790M, which is thought to cause steric hindrance and impair the binding of gefitinib/erlotinib. The T790M is present as a minor allele before TKI therapy and accounts for about half of the acquired resistant cases. Conflicting results were reported for gefitinib-resistant, T790M-acquired patients who had switched to erlotinib treatment, which was proposed to be efficacious. The switch therapy was presumed to work for EGFR wild type patients and previously gefitinib responding patients. MET amplification accounts for about 20% of TKI acquired-resistant patients by a different molecular pathway from T790M; some of these patients will also concurrently have T790M mutation and might still not respond to irreversible TKI. As for the detection of T790M, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), especially mutant-enriched PCR was found to be more sensitive than direct DNA sequencing. In addition, whole genome amplification might also be useful and can be incorporated with future noninvasive method for detecting T790M. A better understanding of the mechanisms leading to TKI resistance is crucial in the development of effective treatment and the design of future clinical studies.
doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2010.12.02
PMCID: PMC3256494  PMID: 22263058
T790M; lung cancer; acquired resistance; TKI

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