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1.  In vivo analysis of insulin-like growth factor type 1 receptor humanized monoclonal antibody MK-0646 and small molecule kinase inhibitor OSI-906 in colorectal cancer 
Oncology Reports  2013;31(1):87-94.
The development and characterization of effective anticancer drugs against colorectal cancer (CRC) is of urgent need since it is the second most common cause of cancer death. The study was designed to evaluate the effects of two IGF-1R antagonists, MK-0646, a recombinant fully humanized monoclonal antibody and OSI-906, a small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor on CRC cells. Xenograft study was performed on IGF-1R-dependent CRC cell lines for analyzing the antitumor activity of MK-0646 and OSI-906. Tumor proliferation and apoptosis were assessed using Ki67 and TUNEL assays, respectively. We also performed in vitro characterization of MK-0646 and OSI-906 treatment on CRC cells to identify mechanisms associated with drug-induced cell death. Exposure of the GEO and CBS tumor xenografts to MK-0646 or OSI-906 led to a decrease in tumor growth. TUNEL analysis showed an increase of approximately 45–55% in apoptotic cells in both MK-0646 and OSI-906 treated tumor samples. We report the novel finding that treatment with IGF-1R antagonists led to downregulation of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) protein involved in cell survival and inhibition of cell death. In conclusion, IGF-1R antagonists (MK-0646 and OSI-906) demonstrated single agent inhibition of subcutaneous CRC xenograft growth. This was coupled to pro-apoptotic effects resulting in downregulation of XIAP and inhibition of cell survival. We report a novel mechanism by which MK-0646 and OSI-906 elicits cell death in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, these results indicate that MK-0646 and OSI-906 may be potential anticancer candidates for the treatment of patients with IGF-1R-dependent CRC.
doi:10.3892/or.2013.2819
PMCID: PMC3868504  PMID: 24173770
colorectal cancer; IGF-1R; MK-0646; OSI-906; antitumor activity; X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis; cell survival
2.  Notch-1 stimulates survival of lung adenocarcinoma cells during hypoxia by activating the IGF-1R pathway 
Oncogene  2010;29(17):2488-2498.
Hypoxic microenvironment supports cancer stem cell survival, causes poor response to anticancer therapy and tumor recurrence. Inhibition of Notch-1 signaling in adenocarcinoma of the lung (ACL) cells causes apoptosis specifically under hypoxia. Here we found that Akt-1 activation is a key mediator of Notch-1 pro-survival effects under hypoxia. Notch-1 activates Akt-1 through repression of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) expression and induction of the Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 Receptor (IGF-1R). The latter seems to be the major determinant of Akt-1 stimulation, since Notch-1 signaling affects Akt-1 activation in PTEN−/− ACL cells. Both downregulation of Insulin Receptor Substrate 1 (IRS-1) and dominant-negative IGF-1R sensitized ACL cells to γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI)-induced apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of IGF-1R protected ACL cells from GSI toxicity. Inhibition of Notch-1 caused reduced IGF-1R expression, while forced Notch-1 expression yielded opposite effects. ChIP experiments suggested Notch-1 direct regulation of the IGF-1R promoter. Experiments in which human ACL cells were injected in mice confirmed elevated and specific co-expression of Notch-1IC, IGF-1R and pAkt-1 in hypoxic tumor areas.
Our data provide a mechanistic explanation for Notch-1 mediated pro-survival function in hypoxic ACL tumor microenvironment. The results identify additional targets that may synergize with Notch-1 inhibition for ACL treatment.
doi:10.1038/onc.2010.7
PMCID: PMC2861728  PMID: 20154720
Notch signaling; lung cancer; hypoxia; IGF-1R; cancer cell survival
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.  Inhibition of Notch Signaling in Combination with Paclitaxel Reduces Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Tumor Growth 
Frontiers in Oncology  2014;4:171.
Introduction: Ovarian cancer (OvCa) is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the United States because of chemoresistant recurrent disease. Our objective was to investigate the efficacy of inhibiting the Notch pathway with a γ-secretase inhibitor (GSI) in an OvCa patient-derived xenograft model as a single agent therapy and in combination with standard chemotherapy.
Methods: Immunocompromised mice bearing xenografts derived from clinically platinum-sensitive human ovarian serous carcinomas were treated with vehicle, GSI (MRK-003) alone, paclitaxel and carboplatin (P/C) alone, or the combination of GSI and P/C. Mice bearing platinum-resistant xenografts were given GSI with or without paclitaxel. Gene transcript levels of the Notch pathway target Hes1 were analyzed using RT-PCR. Notch1 and Notch3 protein levels were evaluated. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test was used to assess significance between the different treatment groups.
Results: Expression of Notch1 and 3 was variable. GSI alone decreased tumor growth in two of three platinum-sensitive ovarian tumors (p < 0.05), as well as in one of three platinum-sensitive tumors (p = 0.04). The combination of GSI and paclitaxel was significantly more effective than GSI alone and paclitaxel alone in all platinum-resistant ovarian tumors (all p < 0.05). The addition of GSI did not alter the effect of P/C in platinum-sensitive tumors. Interestingly, although the response of each tumor to chronic GSI exposure did not correlate with its endogenous level of Notch expression, GSI did negatively affect Notch signaling in an acute setting.
Conclusion: Inhibiting the Notch signaling cascade with a GSI reduces primary human xenograft growth in vivo. GSI synergized with conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy only in the platinum-resistant OvCa models with single agent paclitaxel. These findings suggest inhibition of the Notch pathway in concert with taxane therapy may hold promise for treatment of platinum-resistant OvCa.
doi:10.3389/fonc.2014.00171
PMCID: PMC4083224  PMID: 25072022
ovarian cancer; Notch; γ-secretase inhibitor; chemoresistance; patient-derived xenograft
5.  The Tumor Microenvironment in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Seminars in radiation oncology  2010;20(3):156-163.
The tumor microenvironment (TME) of NSCLC is heterogeneous with variable blood flow though leaky immature vessels, resulting in regions of acidosis and hypoxia. Hypoxia has been documented in NSCLC directly by polarographic needle electrodes and indirectly by assessing tissue and plasma hypoxia markers. In general, elevated expression of these markers portends poorer outcomes in NSCLC. Impaired vascularity and hypoxia can lead to increased metastasis and treatment resistance. Compounds that directly target hypoxic cells such as tirapazamine have been tested in clinical trials for NSCLC with mixed results. Pre-clinical data, however, suggest other ways of exploiting the abnormal TME in NSCLC for therapeutic gain. Inhibition of HIF-1α or VEGF may increase local control after radiation. Inhibitors of the EGFR/PI3K/Akt pathway such as erlotinib or PI-103 may “normalize” tumor vessels, allowing for increased chemotherapy delivery or improved oxygenation and radiation response. In order to select patients who may respond to these therapies and to evaluate the effects of these agents, a non-invasive means of imaging the TME is critical. Presently, there are several promising modalities to image hypoxia and the tumor vasculature; these include dynamic perfusion imaging and positron emission tomography (PET) scanning with radiolabled nitroimidazoles.
doi:10.1016/j.semradonc.2010.01.003
PMCID: PMC2917385  PMID: 20685578
6.  Aberrant DNA Methylation of OLIG1, a Novel Prognostic Factor in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e108.
Background
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Currently, tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging provides the most accurate prognostic parameter for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, the overall survival of patients with resectable tumors varies significantly, indicating the need for additional prognostic factors to better predict the outcome of the disease, particularly within a given TNM subset.
Methods and Findings
In this study, we investigated whether adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas could be differentiated based on their global aberrant DNA methylation patterns. We performed restriction landmark genomic scanning on 40 patient samples and identified 47 DNA methylation targets that together could distinguish the two lung cancer subgroups. The protein expression of one of those targets, oligodendrocyte transcription factor 1 (OLIG1), significantly correlated with survival in NSCLC patients, as shown by univariate and multivariate analyses. Furthermore, the hazard ratio for patients negative for OLIG1 protein was significantly higher than the one for those patients expressing the protein, even at low levels.
Conclusions
Multivariate analyses of our data confirmed that OLIG1 protein expression significantly correlates with overall survival in NSCLC patients, with a relative risk of 0.84 (95% confidence interval 0.77–0.91, p < 0.001) along with T and N stages, as indicated by a Cox proportional hazard model. Taken together, our results suggests that OLIG1 protein expression could be utilized as a novel prognostic factor, which could aid in deciding which NSCLC patients might benefit from more aggressive therapy. This is potentially of great significance, as the addition of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy in T2N0 NSCLC patients is still controversial.
Christopher Plass and colleagues find thatOLIG1 expression correlates with survival in lung cancer patients and suggest that it could be used in deciding which patients are likely to benefit from more aggressive therapy.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Most cases are of a type called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Like other cancers, treatment of NCSLC depends on the “TNM stage” at which the cancer is detected. Staging takes into account the size and local spread of the tumor (its T classification), whether nearby lymph nodes contain tumor cells (its N classification), and whether tumor cells have spread (metastasized) throughout the body (its M classification). Stage I tumors are confined to the lung and are removed surgically. Stage II tumors have spread to nearby lymph nodes and are treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Stage III tumors have spread throughout the chest, and stage IV tumors have metastasized around the body; patients with both of these stages are treated with chemotherapy alone. About 70% of patients with stage I or II lung cancer, but only 2% of patients with stage IV lung cancer, survive for five years after diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
TNM staging is the best way to predict the likely outcome (prognosis) for patients with NSCLC, but survival times for patients with stage I and II tumors vary widely. Another prognostic marker—maybe a “molecular signature”—that could distinguish patients who are likely to respond to treatment from those whose cancer will inevitably progress would be very useful. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells divide uncontrollably and can move around the body. These behavioral changes are caused by alterations in the pattern of proteins expressed by the cells. But what causes these alterations? The answer in some cases is “epigenetic changes” or chemical modifications of genes. In cancer cells, methyl groups are aberrantly added to GC-rich gene regions. These so-called “CpG islands” lie near gene promoters (sequences that control the transcription of DNA into mRNA, the template for protein production), and their methylation stops the promoters working and silences the gene. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether aberrant methylation patterns vary between NSCLC subtypes and whether specific aberrant methylations are associated with survival and can, therefore, be used prognostically.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “restriction landmark genomic scanning” (RLGS) to catalog global aberrant DNA methylation patterns in human lung tumor samples. In RLGS, DNA is cut into fragments with a restriction enzyme (a protein that cuts at specific DNA sequences), end-labeled, and separated using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis to give a pattern of spots. Because methylation stops some restriction enzymes cutting their target sequence, normal lung tissue and lung tumor samples yield different patterns of spots. The researchers used these patterns to identify 47 DNA methylation targets (many in CpG islands) that together distinguished between adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, two major types of NSCLCs. Next, they measured mRNA production from the genes with the greatest difference in methylation between adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. OLIG1 (the gene that encodes a protein involved in nerve cell development) had one of the highest differences in mRNA production between these tumor types. Furthermore, three-quarters of NSCLCs had reduced or no expression of OLIG1 protein and, when the researchers analyzed the association between OLIG1 protein expression and overall survival in patients with NSCLC, reduced OLIG1 protein expression was associated with reduced survival.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that different types of NSCLC can be distinguished by examining their aberrant methylation patterns. This suggests that the establishment of different DNA methylation patterns might be related to the cell type from which the tumors developed. Alternatively, the different aberrant methylation patterns might reflect the different routes that these cells take to becoming tumor cells. This research identifies a potential new prognostic marker for NSCLC by showing that OLIG1 protein expression correlates with overall survival in patients with NSCLC. This correlation needs to be tested in a clinical setting to see if adding OLIG1 expression to the current prognostic parameters can lead to better treatment choices for early-stage lung cancer patients and ultimately improve these patients' overall survival.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040108.
Patient and professional information on lung cancer, including staging (in English and Spanish), is available from the US National Cancer Institute
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on non-small cell lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Cancerbackup provides patient information on lung cancer
CancerQuest, provided by Emory University, has information about how cancer develops (in English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian)
Wikipedia pages on epigenetics (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The Epigenome Network of Excellence gives background information and the latest news about epigenetics (in several European languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040108
PMCID: PMC1831740  PMID: 17388669
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Gamma-Secretase Inhibitor Treatment Promotes VEGF-A-Driven Blood Vessel Growth and Vascular Leakage but Disrupts Neovascular Perfusion 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18709.
The Notch signaling pathway is essential for normal development due to its role in control of cell differentiation, proliferation and survival. It is also critically involved in tumorigenesis and cancer progression. A key enzyme in the activation of Notch signaling is the gamma-secretase protein complex and therefore, gamma-secretase inhibitors (GSIs)—originally developed for Alzheimer's disease—are now being evaluated in clinical trials for human malignancies. It is also clear that Notch plays an important role in angiogenesis driven by Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A (VEGF-A)—a process instrumental for tumor growth and metastasis. The effect of GSIs on tumor vasculature has not been conclusively determined. Here we report that Compound X (CX), a GSI previously reported to potently inhibit Notch signaling in vitro and in vivo, promotes angiogenic sprouting in vitro and during developmental angiogenesis in mice. Furthermore, CX treatment suppresses tumor growth in a mouse model of renal carcinoma, leads to the formation of abnormal vessels and an increased tumor vascular density. Using a rabbit model of VEGF-A-driven angiogenesis in skeletal muscle, we demonstrate that CX treatment promotes abnormal blood vessel growth characterized by vessel occlusion, disrupted blood flow, and increased vascular leakage. Based on these findings, we propose a model for how GSIs and other Notch inhibitors disrupt tumor blood vessel perfusion, which might be useful for understanding this new class of anti-cancer agents.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018709
PMCID: PMC3077402  PMID: 21533193
10.  NOTCH Pathway Blockade Depletes CD133-Positive Glioblastoma Cells and Inhibits Growth of Tumor Neurospheres and Xenografts 
Stem cells (Dayton, Ohio)  2010;28(1):5-16.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be critical for the engraftment and long-term growth of many tumors, including glioblastoma (GBM). The cells are at least partially spared by traditional chemotherapies and radiation therapies, and finding new treatments that can target CSCs may be critical for improving patient survival. It has been shown that the NOTCH signaling pathway regulates normal stem cells in the brain, and that GBMs contain stem-like cells with higher NOTCH activity. We therefore used low-passage and established GBM-derived neurosphere cultures to examine the overall requirement for NOTCH activity, and also examined the effects on tumor cells expressing stem cell markers. NOTCH blockade by γ-secretase inhibitors (GSIs) reduced neurosphere growth and clonogenicity in vitro, whereas expression of an active form of NOTCH2 increased tumor growth. The putative CSC markers CD133, NESTIN, BMI1, and OLIG2 were reduced following NOTCH blockade. When equal numbers of viable cells pretreated with either vehicle (dimethyl sulfoxide) or GSI were injected subcutaneously into nude mice, the former always formed tumors, whereas the latter did not. In vivo delivery of GSI by implantation of drug-impregnated polymer beads also effectively blocked tumor growth, and significantly prolonged survival, albeit in a relatively small cohort of animals. We found that NOTCH pathway inhibition appears to deplete stem-like cancer cells through reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis associated with decreased AKT and STAT3 phosphorylation. In summary, we demonstrate that NOTCH pathway blockade depletes stem-like cells in GBMs, suggesting that GSIs may be useful as chemotherapeutic reagents to target CSCs in malignant gliomas.
doi:10.1002/stem.254
PMCID: PMC2878196  PMID: 19904829
Cancer Stem Cell; NOTCH; Glioblastoma; γ-Secretase inhibitor
11.  Sunitinib Prolongs Survival in Genetically Engineered Mouse Models of Multistep Lung Carcinogenesis 
Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has a poor prognosis, with substantial mortality rates even among patients diagnosed with early-stage disease. There are few effective measures to block the development or progression of NSCLC. Antiangiogenic drugs represent a new class of agents targeting multiple aspects of tumor progression, including cell proliferation, invasion, migration, and outgrowth of metastatic deposits. We tested the multitargeted angiogenesis inhibitor sunitinib in a novel endogenous mouse model of NSCLC, which expresses a conditional activating mutation in Kras with or without conditional deletion of Lkb1; both alterations are frequent in human NSCLC. We showed that daily treatment with sunitinib reduced tumor size, caused tumor necrosis, blocked tumor progression, and prolonged median survival in both the metastatic (Lkb1/Kras) and nonmetastatic (Kras) mouse models; median survival was not reached in the nonmetastatic model after 1 year. However, the incidence of local and distant metastases was similar in sunitinib-treated and untreated Lkb1/Kras mice, suggesting that prolonged survival with sunitinib in these mice was due to direct effects on primary tumor growth rather than to inhibition of metastatic progression. These collective results suggest that the use of angiogenesis inhibitors in early-stage disease for prevention of tumor development and growth may have major survival benefits in the setting of NSCLC.
doi:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0213
PMCID: PMC2696128  PMID: 19336729
12.  The Tumor Suppressor Gene TUSC2 (FUS1) Sensitizes NSCLC to the AKT Inhibitor MK2206 in LKB1-dependent Manner 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77067.
TUSC2-defective gene expression is detected in the majority of lung cancers and is associated with worse overall survival. We analyzed the effects of TUSC2 re-expression on tumor cell sensitivity to the AKT inhibitor, MK2206, and explored their mutual signaling connections, in vitro and in vivo. TUSC2 transient expression in three LKB1-defective non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines combined with MK2206 treatment resulted in increased repression of cell viability and colony formation, and increased apoptotic activity. In contrast, TUSC2 did not affect the response to MK2206 treatment for two LKB1-wild type NSCLC cell lines. In vivo, TUSC2 systemic delivery, by nanoparticle gene transfer, combined with MK2206 treatment markedly inhibited growth of tumors in a human LKB1-defective H322 lung cancer xenograft mouse model. Biochemical analysis showed that TUSC2 transient expression in LKB1-defective NSCLC cells significantly stimulated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylation and enzymatic activity. More importantly, AMPK gene knockdown abrogated TUSC2-MK2206 cooperation, as evidenced by reduced sensitivity to the combined treatment. Together, TUSC2 re-expression and MK2206 treatment was more effective in inhibiting the phosphorylation and kinase activities of AKT and mTOR proteins than either single agent alone. In conclusion, these findings support the hypothesis that TUSC2 expression status is a biological variable that potentiates MK2206 sensitivity in LKB1-defective NSCLC cells, and identifies the AMPK/AKT/mTOR signaling axis as an important regulator of this activity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077067
PMCID: PMC3798310  PMID: 24146957
13.  Bevacizumab: the evidence for its clinical potential in the treatment of nonsmall cell lung cancer 
Core Evidence  2007;2(1):31-49.
Introduction:
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality. Platinum-based chemotherapy is the usual first-line treatment for advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC), although an efficacy plateau has been reached with this approach. Bevacizumab is a recombinant, humanized, monoclonal antibody to vascular endothelial growth factor, which inhibits tumor angiogenesis and is being evaluated as a different mechanism to improve outcomes in patients with stage IIIB/stage IV (metastatic) NSCLC.
Aims:
To review the emerging evidence for the potential use of bevacizumab in stage IIIB/IV NSCLC.
Evidence review:
Adding bevacizumab to carboplatin plus paclitaxel improves response rates and significantly prolongs time to disease progression, which translates into a significant extension of overall survival (median 2.3 months in one key study). Low levels of intracellular adhesion molecule-1 are associated with better response. Preliminary evidence suggests that combining bevacizumab with erlotinib could improve outcomes in patients relapsing following platinum-based chemotherapy. Episodes of bleeding (particularly pulmonary hemorrhage) are the predominant adverse events associated with bevacizumab, probably a result of tumor disintegration.
There is limited evidence that the high acquisition cost of bevacizumab unfavorably affects assessment of its cost effectiveness, although there are few other treatment options in these patients with poor prognosis.
Place in therapy:
The encouraging results obtained with bevacizumab in patients with NSCLC are leading to its adoption in some treatment guidelines. Emerging evidence indicates improved outcomes when bevacizumab is added to carboplatin/paclitaxel in previously untreated patients with NSCLC, and when used with erlotinib in patients who have relapsed following platinum-based chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3012552  PMID: 21221196
bevacizumab; evidence; nonsmall cell lung cancer
14.  Reduced erlotinib sensitivity of EGFR mutant non-small cell lung cancer following cisplatin exposure: A cell culture model of second-line erlotinib treatment 
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) kinase inhibitors induce dramatic clinical responses in a subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with advanced disease, and such responses are correlated with the presence of somatic activating mutations within the EGFR kinase domain. Consequently, one of these inhibitors, erlotinib, has been FDA-approved as a second- or third-line treatment for chemotherapy-refractory advanced NSCLC. However, responses are typically relatively short-lived due to acquired drug resistance, prompting studies to determine whether first-line treatment with EGFR inhibitors could provide greater clinical benefit. NSCLC-derived cell lines have provided a powerful system for modeling EGFR mutation-correlated sensitivity to EGFR inhibitors and for modeling mechanisms of acquired drug resistance that are observed clinically. In a cell culture model of an erlotinib-sensitive EGFR mutant NSCLC cell line, we tested the hypothesis that prior exposure to platinum agents, a standard component of NSCLC chemotherapy treatment, affects the subsequent response to erlotinib. Indeed, NSCLC cells initially selected for growth in cisplatin exhibit 5-fold reduced sensitivity to erlotinib, even after propagating the cisplatin-treated cells in the absence of cisplatin for several months. This lingering effect of cisplatin exposure appears to reflect changes in PTEN tumor suppressor activity and persistent EGFR-independent signaling through the PI-3 kinase/AKT survival pathway. These pre-clinical findings suggest that first-line chemotherapy treatment of EGFR mutant NSCLCs may reduce the benefit of subsequent treatment with EGFR kinase inhibitors, and should prompt further clinical investigation of these inhibitors as a first-line therapy in NSCLC.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-0093
PMCID: PMC2710881  PMID: 18980981
15.  A Gene Expression Signature Predicts Survival of Patients with Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e467.
Background
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Nearly 50% of patients with stages I and II non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) will die from recurrent disease despite surgical resection. No reliable clinical or molecular predictors are currently available for identifying those at high risk for developing recurrent disease. As a consequence, it is not possible to select those high-risk patients for more aggressive therapies and assign less aggressive treatments to patients at low risk for recurrence.
Methods and Findings
In this study, we applied a meta-analysis of datasets from seven different microarray studies on NSCLC for differentially expressed genes related to survival time (under 2 y and over 5 y). A consensus set of 4,905 genes from these studies was selected, and systematic bias adjustment in the datasets was performed by distance-weighted discrimination (DWD). We identified a gene expression signature consisting of 64 genes that is highly predictive of which stage I lung cancer patients may benefit from more aggressive therapy. Kaplan-Meier analysis of the overall survival of stage I NSCLC patients with the 64-gene expression signature demonstrated that the high- and low-risk groups are significantly different in their overall survival. Of the 64 genes, 11 are related to cancer metastasis (APC, CDH8, IL8RB, LY6D, PCDHGA12, DSP, NID, ENPP2, CCR2, CASP8, and CASP10) and eight are involved in apoptosis (CASP8, CASP10, PIK3R1, BCL2, SON, INHA, PSEN1, and BIK).
Conclusions
Our results indicate that gene expression signatures from several datasets can be reconciled. The resulting signature is useful in predicting survival of stage I NSCLC and might be useful in informing treatment decisions.
Meta-analysis of several lung cancer gene expression studies yields a set of 64 genes whose expression profile is useful in predicting survival of patients with early-stage lung cancer and possibly informing treatment decisions.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Lung cancer is the commonest cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Most cases are of a type called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and are mainly caused by smoking. Like other cancers, how NSCLC is treated depends on the “stage” at which it is detected. Stage IA NSCLCs are small and confined to the lung and can be removed surgically; patients with slightly larger stage IB tumors often receive chemotherapy after surgery. In stage II NSCLC, cancer cells may be present in lymph nodes near the tumor. Surgery plus chemotherapy is the usual treatment for this stage and for some stage III NSCLCs. However, in this stage, the tumor can be present throughout the chest and surgery is not always possible. For such cases and in stage IV NSCLC, where the tumor has spread throughout the body, patients are treated with chemotherapy alone. The stage at which NSCLC is detected also determines how well patients respond to treatment. Those who can be treated surgically do much better than those who can't. So, whereas only 2% of patients with stage IV lung cancer survive for 5 years after diagnosis, about 70% of patients with stage I or II lung cancer live at least this long.
Why Was This Study Done?
Even stage I and II lung cancers often recur and there is no accurate way to identify the patients in which this will happen. If there was, these patients could be given aggressive chemotherapy, so the search is on for a “molecular signature” to help identify which NSCLCs are likely to recur. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells divide uncontrollably and can move around the body. These behavioral differences are caused by changes in their genetic material that alter their patterns of RNA transcription and protein expression. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether data from several microarray studies (a technique used to catalog the genes expressed in cells) can be pooled to construct a gene expression signature that predicts the survival of patients with stage I NSCLC.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took the data from seven independent microarray studies (including a new study of their own) that recorded gene expression profiles related to survival time (less than 2 years and greater than 5 years) for stage I NSCLC. Because these studies had been done in different places with slightly different techniques, the researchers applied a statistical tool called distance-weighted discrimination to smooth out any systematic differences among the studies before identifying 64 genes whose expression was associated with survival. Most of these genes are involved in cell adhesion, cell motility, cell proliferation, and cell death, all processes that are altered in cancer cells. The researchers then developed a statistical model that allowed them to use the gene expression and survival data to calculate risk scores for nearly 200 patients in five of the datasets. When they separated the patients into high and low risk groups on the basis of these scores, the two groups were significantly different in terms of survival time. Indeed, the gene expression signature was better at predicting outcome than routine staging. Finally, the researchers validated the gene expression signature by showing that it predicted survival with more than 85% accuracy in two independent datasets.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The 64 gene expression signature identified here could help clinicians prepare treatment plans for patients with stage I NSCLC. Because it accurately predicts survival in patients with adenocarcinoma or squamous cell cancer (the two major subtypes of NSCLC), it potentially indicates which of these patients should receive aggressive chemotherapy and which can be spared this unpleasant treatment. Previous attempts to establish gene expression signatures to predict outcome have used data from small groups of patients and have failed when tested in additional patients. In contrast, this new signature seems to be generalizable. Nevertheless, its ability to predict outcomes must be confirmed in further studies before it is routinely adopted by oncologists for treatment planning.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030467.
US National Cancer Institute information on lung cancer for patients and health professionals.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer.
Cancer Research UK, information on patients about all aspects of lung cancer.
Wikipedia pages on DNA microarrays and expression profiling (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit).
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030467
PMCID: PMC1716187  PMID: 17194181
16.  Expression and clinical significance of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B signal transduction pathway in non-small cell lung carcinoma 
Oncology Letters  2014;8(2):601-607.
The overactivation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (Akt) signal transduction pathway has been examined in various carcinomas and is reported to be significantly correlated with prognosis. However, little is known with regard to the PI3K/Akt signal transduction pathway in advanced non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). The present study investigated the expression of PI3K and phosphorylated (p)-Akt protein and its clinical significance in NSCLC. The clinical records of 157 patients with NSCLC (70 stage I–IIIA and 87 stage IIIB–IV cases), consisting of 75 cases of squamous cell carcinoma and 82 cases of adenocarcinoma, together with 30 resected lung cancer tumor-adjacent tissue samples, were retrospectively evaluated. PI3K and p-Akt expression in the NSCLC and tumor-adjacent tissues were measured using an immunohistochemical method, and its correlation with the clinicopathological data and prognosis in advanced NSCLC was evaluated. PI3K and p-Akt expression was significantly higher in the cancer tissues (χ2=14.8455; P=0.001) than in the tumor-adjacent tissues (χ2=14.2615; P=0.001). The overexpression of p-Akt in stage I–IIIA NSCLC was associated with lymph node metastasis (χ2=6.1189; P=0.013) and tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) stage (χ2=8.9752; P=0.011), however, no correlation was observed with gender, age, pathological type and histological grade. The overexpression of p-Akt in stage IIIB–IV NSCLC was only associated with TNM stage (χ2=5.7501; P=0.016), and no correlation was observed with gender, age, pathological type, histological grade and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS). The overexpression of PI3K was not found to correlate with the aforementioned clinicopathological variables in all patients. Survival was significantly improved in advanced NSCLC with PI3K- and p-Akt-negative expression compared with PI3K- and p-Akt-positive expression [P13K: 17.70 months (95% confidence interval (CI), 15.11–20.28 months) vs. 13.43 months (95% CI, 11.83–15.02 months); P=0.004; and p-Akt: 17.13 months (95% CI, 14.93–19.34 months) vs. 13.07 months (95% CI, 11.32–14.82 months); P=0.007]. Multivariate analysis showed that PI3K [hazard ratio (HR)=2.143; 95% CI, 1.211–3.790; P=0.009], p-Akt (HR=1.991; 95% CI, 1.009–3.927; P=0.047), TNM stage (HR=4.788; 95% CI, 2.591–8.848; P=0.001) and ECOG-PS (HR=3.272; 95% CI, 1.701–6.296; P=0.001) were independent predictors for survival in stage IIIB–IV NSCLC. These results indicated that p-Akt overexpression closely correlates with factors of an unfavorable prognosis in NSCLC. PI3K and p-Akt overexpression are independent markers of a poor prognosis in advanced NSCLC.
doi:10.3892/ol.2014.2167
PMCID: PMC4081182  PMID: 25013474
non-small cell lung carcinoma; prognosis; phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase; protein kinase B
17.  High Expression Levels of Total IGF-1R and Sensitivity of NSCLC Cells In Vitro to an Anti-IGF-1R Antibody (R1507) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7273.
Background
The IGF receptor type 1 (IGF-1R) pathway is frequently deregulated in human tumors and has become a target of interest for anti-cancer therapy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a panel of 22 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines to investigate predictive biomarkers of response to R1507, a fully-humanized anti-IGF-1R monoclonal antibody (Ab; Roche). 5 lines were moderately sensitive (25–50% growth inhibition) to R1507 alone. While levels of phospho-IGF-1R did not correlate with drug sensitivity, 4 out of 5 sensitive lines displayed high levels of total IGF-1R versus 1 out of 17 resistant lines (p = 0.003, Fisher's Exact). Sensitive lines also harbored higher copy numbers of IGF-1R as assessed by independent SNP array analysis. Addition of erlotinib or paclitaxel to R1507 led to further growth inhibition in sensitive but not resistant lines. In one EGFR mutant lung adenocarcinoma cell line (11–18), R1507 and erlotinib co-treatment induced apoptosis, whereas treatment with either drug alone induced only cell cycle arrest. Apoptosis was mediated, in part, by the survival-related AKT pathway. Additionally, immunohistochemical (IHC) staining of total IGF-1R with an anti-total IGF-1R Ab (G11;Ventana) was performed on tissue microarrays (TMAs) containing 270 independent NSCLC tumor samples. Staining intensity was scored on a scale of 0 to 3+. 39.3% of tumors showed medium to high IGF-1R IHC staining (scores of 2+ or 3+, respectively), while 16.7% had scores of 3+.
Conclusions/Significance
In NSCLC cell lines, high levels of total IGF-1R are associated with moderate sensitivity to R1507. These results suggest a possible enrichment strategy for clinical trials with anti-IGF-1R therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007273
PMCID: PMC2752171  PMID: 19806209
18.  Targeting notch pathway enhances rapamycin antitumor activity in pancreas cancers through PTEN phosphorylation 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:138.
Background
Pancreas cancer is one of most aggressive human cancers with the survival rate for patients with metastatic pancreas cancer at 5-6 months. The poor survival demonstrates a clear need for better target identification, drug development and new therapeutic strategies. Recent discoveries have shown that the role for Notch pathway is important in both development and cancer. Its contribution to oncogenesis also involves crosstalks with other growth factor pathways, such as Akt and its modulator, PTEN. The mounting evidence supporting a role for Notch in cancer promotion and survival suggests that targeting this pathway alone or in combination with other therapeutics represents a promising therapeutic strategy.
Results
Using a pancreas cancer tissue microarray, we noted that Jagged1, Notch3 and Notch4 are overexpressed in pancreas tumors (26%, 84% and 31% respectively), whereas Notch1 is expressed in blood vessels. While there was no correlation between Notch receptor expression and survival, stage or tumor grade, Notch3 was associated with Jagged1 and EGFR expression, suggesting a unique relationship between Notch3 and Jagged1. Inhibition of the Notch pathway genetically and with gamma-secretase inhibitor (GSI) resulted in tumor suppression and enhanced cell death. The observed anti-tumor activity appeared to be through Akt and modulation of PTEN phosphorylation. We discovered that transcriptional regulation of RhoA by Notch is important for PTEN phosphorylation. Finally, the mTOR inhibitor Rapamycin enhanced the effect of GSI on RhoA expression, resulting in down regulation of phospho-Akt and increased in vitro tumor cytotoxity.
Conclusions
Notch pathway plays an important role in maintaining pancreas tumor phenotype. Targeting this pathway represents a reasonable strategy for the treatment of pancreas cancers. Notch modulates the Akt pathway through regulation of PTEN phosphorylation, an observation that has not been made previously. Furthermore, we discovered that this regulation is dependent on RhoA/Rock1 activation. Enhanced phospho-Akt suppression when GSI is combined with rapamycin suggests that targeting both pathways will lead to a greater efficacy in the treatment of patients with pancreas cancer.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-10-138
PMCID: PMC3253061  PMID: 22074495
19.  Combination Treatment with MEK and AKT Inhibitors Is More Effective than Each Drug Alone in Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14124.
AZD6244 and MK2206 are targeted small-molecule drugs that inhibit MEK and AKT respectively. The efficacy of this combination in lung cancer is unknown. Our previous work showed the importance of activated AKT in mediating resistance of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to AZD6244. Thus we hypothesized that dual inhibition of both downstream MEK and AKT pathways would induce synergistic antitumor activity. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of AZD6244 and MK2206 individually on a large panel of lung cancer cell lines. Then, we treated 28 human lung cancer cell lines with a combination of AZD6244 and MK2206 at clinically applicable drug molar ratios. The AZD6244-MK2206 combination therapy resulted in a synergistic effect on inhibition of lung cancer cell growth compared to the results of single drug treatment alone. MK2206 enhanced AZD6244-induced Bim overexpression and apoptosis in A549 and H157 cells. When we tested the combination of AZD6244 and MK2206 at ratios of 8∶1, 4∶1, 2∶1, and 1∶8, we found that the synergistic effect of the combination therapy was ratio-dependent. At ratios of 8∶1, 4∶1, and 2∶1, the drug combination consistently demonstrated synergy, whereas decreasing the ratio to 1∶8 resulted in a loss of synergy and produced an additive or antagonistic effect in most cell lines. Furthermore, the AZD6244-MK2206 combination therapy showed synergy in the suppression of A549 and H157 xenograft tumor growth and increased mean animal survival time. The AZD6244-MK2206 combination therapy resulted in effective inhibition of both p-ERK and p-AKT expression in tumor tissue. In addition, a significant increase of apoptosis was detected in tumor tissue from mice treated with AZD6244-MK2206 compared with that from the single agent treated mice. Our study suggests that the combination of AZD6244 and MK2206 has a significant synergistic effect on tumor growth in vitro and in vivo and leads to increased survival rates in mice bearing highly aggressive human lung tumors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014124
PMCID: PMC2993951  PMID: 21124782
20.  Radiotherapy Sensitization by Tumor-Specific TRAIL-Gene Targeting Improves Survival of Mice Bearing Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Purpose
To sensitize NSCLC to radiotherapy by tumor-specific delivery of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) gene.
Experimental Design
The TRAIL gene was delivered to human NSCLC cell lines and normal human bronchial epithelial cells by the replication-defective adenoviral vector Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD using a tumor specific human telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter. Cancer growth was studied using XTT and clonogenic assays. Activation of the apoptosis signal transduction pathway was analyzed in a Western blot, and sub-G1 DNA accumulation was evaluated by a flow cytometry assay. A xenograft mouse model was established, intratumoral injections of Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD were given, and the tumors were locally irradiated at a dose of 5 Gy per tumor; the other groups received one of these treatments alone or a control agent. Apoptosis and TRAIL expression in tumors were analyzed using TUNEL assay and immunohistochemistry respectively.
Results
Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD specifically targets human NSCLC cells without significant effect in NHBE. The combination of TRAIL gene therapy and radiotherapy significantly improved cell-killing effect in all NSCLC cancer cell lines tested (P < 0.05) but not in NHBE. Expression of TRAIL showed a dose-dependent relationship with Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD, and radiation appeared to increase TRAIL expression. Activation of the apoptosis by TRAIL and radiation was demonstrated by activation of caspase-9, caspase-8, caspase-3, and poly-ADP-ribose polymerase and increased DNA sub-G1 accumulation. The combination of TRAIL and radiotherapy significantly inhibited tumor growth and prolonged mean survival in mice bearing human NSCLC to 43.7 days, compared with 23.7 days with TRAIL only, 16.5 days for radiotherapy only (P < 0.05). Combination of Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD and radiation significantly increased apoptosis in animal tumor samples (29.8%, P <0.001) compared with radiation alone (9.7%), Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD alone (13.5%), radiotherapy plus Ad/CMV-GFP (10.3%).
Conclusions
The combination of tumor-specific TRAIL gene therapy and radiotherapy significantly improved therapeutic efficacy in suppressing NSCLC tumor growth and prolonging survival in mice bearing human NSCLC. Ad/TRAIL-F/RGD may improve the therapeutic ratio of radiotherapy in NSCLC.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-04-2699
PMCID: PMC1351100  PMID: 16166445
Tumor-specific targeting; TRAIL gene therapy; radiosensitivity; NSCLC; apoptosis
21.  Rapid regression of choroidal metastasis from lung cancer using erlotinib (Tarceva) 
Oman Journal of Ophthalmology  2014;7(2):75-77.
Lung carcinoma is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is the primary source for choroidal metastasis in over 20% cases. Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 85% of all lung cancer cases. Patients with metastatic NSCLC have a median survival of one year. Successful treatment of systemic metastasis from NSCLC using erlotinib has been documented. The effect of oral erlotinib on choroidal metastasis has been rarely reported. We document a case and study the effect of oral erlotinib on choroidal metastasis from NSCLC. A 48-year-old Caucasian female presented with biopsy-proven primary NSCLC with systemic metastasis and solitary choroidal metastasis of 4.8 mm thickness in the right eye. The patient was treated with 100 mg daily dose of oral erlotinib. Two weeks after starting erlotinib therapy, the patient showed complete regression of choroidal metastasis to a flat scar with resolution of subretinal fluid and improvement of visual acuity from 20/100 to 20/25. There was no evidence of recurrence at five-month follow-up. Erlotinib is an alternative therapy for choroidal metastasis from NSCLC.
doi:10.4103/0974-620X.137159
PMCID: PMC4134551  PMID: 25136232
Choroidal metastasis; erlotinib; lung cancer; non-small-cell lung cancer
22.  Mer or Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Inhibition Promotes Apoptosis, Blocks Growth, and Enhances Chemosensitivity of Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
Oncogene  2012;32(29):3420-3431.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a prevalent and devastating disease that claims more lives than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined. Current research suggests that standard chemotherapy regimens have been optimized to maximal efficiency. Promising new treatment strategies involve novel agents targeting molecular aberrations present in subsets of NSCLC. We evaluated 88 human NSCLC tumors of diverse histology and identified Mer and Axl as receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) overexpressed in 69% and 93%, respectively, of tumors relative to surrounding normal lung tissue. Mer and Axl were also frequently overexpressed and activated in NSCLC cell lines. Ligand-dependent Mer or Axl activation stimulated MAPK, AKT, and FAK signaling pathways indicating roles for these RTKs in multiple oncogenic processes. In addition, we identified a novel pro-survival pathway—involving AKT, CREB, Bcl-xL, survivin, and Bcl-2—downstream of Mer, which is differentially modulated by Axl signaling. We demonstrated that shRNA knockdown of Mer or Axl significantly reduced NSCLC colony formation and growth of subcutaneous xenografts in nude mice. Mer or Axl knockdown also improved in vitro NSCLC sensitivity to chemotherapeutic agents by promoting apoptosis. When comparing the effects of Mer and Axl knockdown, Mer inhibition exhibited more complete blockade of tumor growth while Axl knockdown more robustly improved chemosensitivity. These results indicate that Mer and Axl play complementary and overlapping roles in NSCLC and suggest that treatment strategies targeting both RTKs may be more effective than singly-targeted agents. Our findings validate Mer and Axl as potential therapeutic targets in NSCLC and provide justification for development of novel therapeutic compounds that selectively inhibit Mer and/or Axl.
doi:10.1038/onc.2012.355
PMCID: PMC3502700  PMID: 22890323
targeted therapy; receptor tyrosine kinase; MerTK; signal transduction; xenograft; chemosensitivity
23.  A Randomized, Phase II, Biomarker-Selected Study Comparing Erlotinib to Erlotinib Intercalated With Chemotherapy in First-Line Therapy for Advanced Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(26):3567-3573.
Purpose
Erlotinib prolongs survival in patients with advanced non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We report the results of a randomized, phase II study of erlotinib alone or intercalated with chemotherapy (CT + erlotinib) in chemotherapy-naïve patients with advanced NSCLC who were positive for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein expression and/or with high EGFR gene copy number.
Patients and Methods
A total of 143 patients were randomly assigned to either erlotinib 150 mg daily orally until disease progression (PD) occurred or to chemotherapy with paclitaxel 200 mg/m2 intravenously (IV) and carboplatin dosed by creatinine clearance (AUC 6) IV on day 1 intercalated with erlotinib 150 mg orally on days 2 through 15 every 3 weeks for four cycles followed by erlotinib 150 mg orally until PD occurred (CT + erlotinib). The primary end point was 6-month progression-free survival (PFS); secondary end points included response rate, PFS, and survival. EGFR, KRAS mutation, EGFR fluorescent in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, and E-cadherin and vimentin protein levels were also assessed.
Results
Six-month PFS rates were 26% and 31% for the two arms (CT + erlotinib and erlotinib alone, respectively). Both were less than the historical control of 45% (P = .001 and P = .011, respectively). Median PFS times were 4.57 and 2.69 months, respectively. Patients with tumors harboring EGFR activating mutations fared better on erlotinib alone (median PFS, 18.2 months v 4.9 months for CT + erlotinib).
Conclusion
The feasibility of a multicenter biomarker-driven study was demonstrated, but neither treatment arms exceeded historical controls. This study does not support combined chemotherapy and erlotinib in first-line treatment of EGFR-selected advanced NSCLC, and the patients with tumors harboring EGFR mutations had a better outcome on erlotinib alone.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2010.34.4929
PMCID: PMC3179254  PMID: 21825259
24.  Hypoxia Increases Gefitinib-Resistant Lung Cancer Stem Cells through the Activation of Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 Receptor 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86459.
Accumulating evidence indicates that a small population of cancer stem cells (CSCs) is involved in intrinsic resistance to cancer treatment. The hypoxic microenvironment is an important stem cell niche that promotes the persistence of CSCs in tumors. Our aim here was to elucidate the role of hypoxia and CSCs in the resistance to gefitinib in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with activating epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation. NSCLC cell lines, PC9 and HCC827, which express the EGFR exon 19 deletion mutations, were exposed to high concentration of gefitinib under normoxic or hypoxic conditions. Seven days after gefitinib exposure, a small fraction of viable cells were detected, and these were referred to as “gefitinib-resistant persisters” (GRPs). CD133, Oct4, Sox2, Nanog, CXCR4, and ALDH1A1–all genes involved in stemness–were highly expressed in GRPs in PC9 and HCC827 cells, and PC9 GRPs exhibited a high potential for tumorigenicity in vivo. The expression of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) was also upregulated and IGF1 receptor (IGF1R) was activated on GRPs. Importantly, hypoxic exposure significantly increased sphere formation, reflecting the self-renewal capability, and the population of CD133- and Oct4-positive GRPs. Additionally, hypoxia upregulated IGF1 expression through hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α), and markedly promoted the activation of IGF1R on GRPs. Knockdown of IGF1 expression significantly reduced phosphorylated IGF1R-expressing GRPs under hypoxic conditions. Finally, inhibition of HIF1α or IGF1R by specific inhibitors significantly decreased the population of CD133- and Oct4-positive GRPs, which were increased by hypoxia in PC9 and HCC827 cells. Collectively, these findings suggest that hypoxia increased the population of lung CSCs resistant to gefitinib in EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC by activating IGF1R. Targeting the IGF1R pathway may be a promising strategy for overcoming gefitinib resistance in EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC induced by lung CSCs and microenvironment factors such as tumor hypoxia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086459
PMCID: PMC3904884  PMID: 24489728
25.  Targeted therapies in development for non-small cell lung cancer 
The iterative discovery in various malignancies during the past decades that a number of aberrant tumorigenic processes and signal transduction pathways are mediated by “druggable” protein kinases has led to a revolutionary change in drug development. In non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the ErbB family of receptors (e.g., EGFR [epidermal growth factor receptor], HER2 [human epidermal growth factor receptor 2]), RAS (rat sarcoma gene), BRAF (v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1), MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) c-MET (c-mesenchymal-epithelial transition), FGFR (fibroblast growth factor receptor), DDR2 (discoidin domain receptor 2), PIK3CA (phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate3-kinase, catalytic subunit alpha)), PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog), AKT (protein kinase B), ALK (anaplastic lym phoma kinase), RET (rearranged during transfection), ROS1 (reactive oxygen species 1) and EPH (erythropoietin-producing hepatoma) are key targets of various agents currently in clinical development. These oncogenic targets exert their selective growth advantage through various intercommunicating pathways, such as through RAS/RAF/MEK, phosphoinositide 3-kinase/AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin and SRC-signal transduction and transcription signaling. The recent clinical studies, EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors and crizotinib were considered as strongly effective targeted therapies in metastatic NSCLC. Currently, five molecular targeted agents were approved for treatment of advanced NSCLC: Gefitinib, erlotinib and afatinib for positive EGFR mutation, crizotinib for positive echinoderm microtubule-associated protein-like 4 (EML4)-ALK translocation and bevacizumab. Moreover, oncogenic mutant proteins are subject to regulation by protein trafficking pathways, specifically through the heat shock protein 90 system. Drug combinations affecting various nodes in these signaling and intracellular processes are predicted and demonstrated to be synergistic and advantageous in overcoming treatment resistance compared with monotherapy approaches. Understanding the role of the tumor microenvironment in the development and maintenance of the malignant phenotype provided additional therapeutic approaches as well. More recently, improved knowledge on tumor immunology has set the stage for promising immunotherapies in NSCLC. This review will focus on the rationale for the development of targeted therapies in NSCLC and the various strategies employed in preventing or overcoming the inevitable occurrence of treatment resistance.
doi:10.4103/1477-3163.123972
PMCID: PMC3927069  PMID: 24574860
Drug resistance; heat shock protein 90 inhibitors; non-small cell lung cancer; programmed cell death-1 receptor inhibitors; protein kinase inhibitors

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