The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been one of the most targeted receptors in the field of oncology. While anti-EGFR inhibitors have demonstrated clinical success in specific cancers, most patients demonstrate either intrinsic or acquired resistance within one year of treatment. Many mechanisms of resistance to EGFR inhibitors have been identified, one of these being attributed to alternatively localized EGFR from the cell membrane into the cell’s nucleus. Inside the nucleus, EGFR functions as a co-transcription factor for several genes involved in cell proliferation and angiogenesis, and as a tyrosine kinase to activate and stabilize proliferating cell nuclear antigen and DNA dependent protein kinase. Nuclear localized EGFR is highly associated with disease progression, worse overall survival in numerous cancers, and enhanced resistance to radiation, chemotherapy, and the anti-EGFR therapies gefitinib and cetuximab. In this review the current knowledge of how nuclear EGFR enhances resistance to cancer therapeutics is discussed, in addition to highlighting ways to target nuclear EGFR as an anti-cancer strategy in the future.
Nuclear EGFR; Cancer; Resistance
Nuclear EGFR (nEGFR) has been identified in various human tumor tissues, including cancers of the breast, ovary, oropharynx, and esophagus, and has predicted poor patient outcomes. We sought to determine if protein expression of nEGFR is prognostic in early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Resected stage I and II NSCLC specimens were evaluated for nEGFR protein expression using immunohistochemistry (IHC). Cases with at least one replicate core containing ≥5% of tumor cells demonstrating strong dot-like nucleolar EGFR expression were scored as nEGFR positive.
Twenty-three (26.1% of the population) of 88 resected specimens stained positively for nEGFR. Nuclear EGFR protein expression was associated with higher disease stage (45.5% of stage II vs. 14.5% of stage I; p=0.023), histology (41.7% in squamous cell carcinoma vs. 17.1% in adenocarcinoma; p=0.028), shorter progression-free survival (PFS) (median PFS 8.7 months [95% CI 5.1–10.7 mo] for nEGFR positive vs. 14.5 months [95% CI 9.5–17.4 mo] for nEGFR negative; hazard ratio (HR) of 1.89 [95% CI 1.15–3.10]; p=0.011), and shorter overall survival (OS) (median OS 14.1 months [95% CI 10.3–22.7 mo] for nEGFR positive vs. 23.4 months [95% CI 20.1–29.4 mo] for nEGFR negative; HR of 1.83 [95% CI 1.12–2.99]; p=0.014).
Expression of nEGFR protein was associated with higher stage and squamous cell histology, and predicted shorter PFS and OS, in this patient cohort. Nuclear EGFR serves as a useful independent prognostic variable and as a potential therapeutic target in NSCLC.
non-small cell lung cancer; nuclear; epidermal growth factor receptor; prognosis; biomarker; survival analysis
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a central regulator of tumor progression in human cancers. Cetuximab is an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody that has been approved for use in oncology. Despite clinical success the majority of patients do not respond to cetuximab and those who initially respond frequently acquire resistance. To understand how tumor cells acquire resistance to cetuximab we developed a model of resistance using the non-small cell lung cancer line NCI-H226. We found that cetuximab-resistant (CtxR) clones manifested strong activation of EGFR, PI3K/AKT and MAPK. To investigate the role of AKT signaling in cetuximab resistance we analyzed the activation of the AKT pathway effector molecules using a human AKT phospho-antibody array. Strong activation was observed in CtxR clones for several key AKT substrates including c-jun, GSK3β, eIF4E, rpS6, IKKα, IRS-1 and Raf1. Inhibition of AKT signaling by siAKT1/2 or by the allosteric AKT inhibitor MK-2206 resulted in robust inhibition of cell proliferation in all CtxR clones. Moreover, the combinational treatment of cetuximab and MK-2206 resulted in further decreases in proliferation than either drug alone. This combinatorial treatment resulted in decreased activity of both AKT and MAPK thus highlighting the importance of simultaneous pathway inhibition to maximally affect the growth of CtxR cells. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that AKT activation is an important pathway in acquired resistance to cetuximab and suggests that combinatorial therapy directed at both the AKT and EGFR/MAPK pathways may be beneficial in this setting.
AKT; EGFR; MK-2206; cetuximab; acquired cetuximab-resistance; non-small cell lung cancer; MAPK
HER3 is a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family of receptor tyrosine kinases. In the present study, we investigated the capacity of the HER3 blocking antibody, U3-1287/AMG888, to modulate the in vitro and in vivo radiation response of human squamous cell carcinomas of the lung and head and neck. We screened a battery of cell lines from these tumors for HER3 expression and demonstrated that all cell lines screened exhibited expression of HER3. Importantly, U3-1287/AMG888 treatment could block both basal HER3 activity and radiation induced HER3 activation. Proliferation assays indicated that HER3 blockade could decrease the proliferation of both HNSCC cell line SCC6 and NSCLC cell line H226. Further, we demonstrated that U3-1287/AMG888 can sensitize cells to radiation in clonogenic survival assays, in addition to increasing DNA damage as detected via λ-H2AX immunofluo-rescence. To determine if U3-1287/AMG888 could enhance radiation sensitivity in vivo we performed tumor growth delay experiments using SCC6, SCC1483, and H226 xenografts. The results of these experiments indicated that the combination of U3-1287/AMG888 and radiation could decrease tumor growth in studies using single or fractionated doses of radiation. Analysis of HER3 expression in tumor samples indicated that radiation treatment activated HER3 in vivo and that U3-1287/AMG888 could abrogate this activation. Immunohistochemistry analysis of SCC6 tumors treated with both U3-1287/AMG888 and a single dose of radiation demonstrated that various cell survival and proliferation markers could be reduced. Collectively our findings suggest that U3-1287/AMG888 in combination with radiation has an impact on cell and tumor growth by increasing DNA damage and cell death. These findings suggest that HER3 may play an important role in response to radiation therapy and blocking its activity in combination with radiation may be of therapeutic benefit in human tumors.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a central regulator of tumor progression in a variety of human cancers. Cetuximab is an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody that has been approved for head and neck and colorectal cancer treatment, but many patients treated with cetuximab don't respond or eventually acquire resistance. To determine how tumor cells acquire resistance to cetuximab, we previously developed a model of acquired resistance using the non-small cell lung cancer line NCI-H226. These cetuximab-resistant (CtxR) cells exhibit increased steady-state EGFR expression secondary to alterations in EGFR trafficking and degradation and, further, retained dependence on EGFR signaling for enhanced growth potential. Here, we examined Sym004, a novel mixture of antibodies directed against distinct epitopes on the extracellular domain of EGFR, as an alternative therapy for CtxR tumor cells. Sym004 treatment of CtxR clones resulted in rapid EGFR degradation, followed by robust inhibition of cell proliferation and down-regulation of several mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. To determine whether Sym004 could have therapeutic benefit in vivo, we established de novo CtxR NCI-H226 mouse xenografts and subsequently treated CtxR tumors with Sym004. Sym004 treatment of mice harboring CtxR tumors resulted in growth delay compared to mice continued on cetuximab. Levels of total and phospho-EGFR were robustly decreased in CtxR tumors treated with Sym004. Immunohistochemical analysis of these Sym004-treated xenograft tumors further demonstrated decreased expression of Ki67, and phospho-rpS6, as well as a modest increase in cleaved caspase-3. These results indicate that Sym004 may be an effective targeted therapy for CtxR tumors.
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a central regulator of tumor progression in human cancers. Cetuximab is an anti-EGFR antibody that has been approved for use in oncology. Previously we investigated mechanisms of resistance to cetuximab using a model derived from the non-small cell lung cancer line NCI-H226. We demonstrated that cetuximab-resistant clones (CtxR) had increased nuclear localization of the EGFR. This process was mediated by Src family kinases (SFK), and nuclear EGFR played a role in resistance to cetuximab. To better understand SFK mediated nuclear translocation of EGFR, we investigated which SFK member(s) controlled this process as well as the EGFR tyrosine residues that are involved. Analyses of mRNA and protein expression indicated up-regulation of the SFK members Yes and Lyn in all CtxR clones. Further, immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that EGFR interacts with Yes and Lyn in CtxR clones, but not in cetuximab-sensitive (CtxS) parental cells. Using RNAi interference, we found that knockdown of either Yes or Lyn led to loss of EGFR translocation to the nucleus. Conversely, overexpression of Yes or Lyn in low nuclear EGFR expressing CtxS parental cells led to increased nuclear EGFR. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays confirmed nuclear EGFR complexes associated with the promoter of the known EGFR target genes B-Myb and iNOS. Further, all CtxR clones exhibited up-regulation of B-Myb and iNOS at the mRNA and protein levels. siRNAs directed at Yes or Lyn led to decreased binding of EGFR complexes to the B-Myb and iNOS promoters based on ChIP analyses. SFKs have been shown to phosphorylate EGFR on tyrosines 845 and 1101 (Y845 and Y1101) and mutation of Y1101, but not Y845, impaired nuclear entry of the EGFR. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that Yes and Lyn phosphorylate EGFR at Y1101 which influences EGFR nuclear translocation in this model of cetuximab resistance.
nuclear EGFR; SFK; Yes; Lyn
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is an ubiquitously expressed receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) and is recognized as a key mediator of tumorigenesis in many human tumors. Currently there are five EGFR inhibitors used in oncology, two monoclonal antibodies (panitumumab and cetuximab) and three tyrosine kinase inhibitors (erlotinib, gefitinib and lapatinib). Both strategies of EGFR inhibition have demonstrated clinical success; however, many tumors remain non-responsive or acquire resistance during therapy. To explore potential molecular mechanisms of acquired resistance to cetuximab we previously established a series of cetuximab-resistant clones by chronically exposing the NCI-H226 NSCLC cell line to escalating doses of cetuximab. Cetuximab-resistant clones exhibited a dramatic increase in the activation of EGFR, HER2 and HER3 receptors as well as increased signaling through the MAP K and AKT pathways. RNAi studies demonstrated dependence of cetuximab-resistant clones on the EGFR signaling network. These findings prompted investigation on whether or not cells with acquired resistance to cetuximab would be sensitive to the EGFR targeted TKI erlotinib. In vitro, erlotinib was able to decrease signaling through the EGFR axis, decrease cellular proliferation and induce apoptosis. To determine if erlotinib could have therapeutic benefit in vivo, we established cetuximab-resistant NCI-H226 mouse xenografts, and subsequently treated them with erlotinib. Mice harboring cetuximab-resistant tumors treated with erlotinib exhibited either a tumor regression or growth delay as compared with vehicle controls. Analysis of the erlotinib treated tumors demonstrated a decrease in cell proliferation and increased rates of apoptosis. The work presented herein suggests that (1) cells with acquired resistance to cetuximab maintain their dependence on EGFR and (2) tumors developing resistance to cetuximab can benefit from subsequent treatment with erlotinib, providing rationale for its use in the setting of cetuximab resistance.
EGFR; mABs; cetuximab resistance; TKI; erlotinib
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a receptor tyrosine kinase belonging to the HER family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Receptor activation upon ligand binding leads to down stream activation of the PI3K/AKT, RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK and PLCγ/PKC pathways that influence cell proliferation, survival and the metastatic potential of tumor cells. Increased activation by gene amplification, protein overexpression or mutations of the EGFR has been identified as an etiological factor in a number of human epithelial cancers (e.g., NSCLC, CRC, glioblastoma and breast cancer). Therefore, targeting the EGFR has been intensely pursued as a cancer treatment strategy over the last two decades. To date, five EGFR inhibitors, including three small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and two monoclonal antibodies have gained FDA approval for use in oncology. Both approaches to targeting the EGFR have shown clinical promise and the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab is used to treat HNSCC and CRC. Despite clinical gains arising from use of cetuximab, both intrinsic resistance and the development of acquired resistance are now well recognized. In this review we focus on the biology of the EGFR, the role of EGFR in human cancer, the development of antibody-based anti-EGFR therapies and a summary of their clinical successes. Further, we provide an in depth discussion of described molecular mechanisms of resistance to cetuximab and potential strategies to circumvent this resistance.
EGFR; cetuximab; resistance
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a member of the EGFR family of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). EGFR activation via ligand binding results in signaling through various pathways ultimately resulting in cellular proliferation, survival, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. Aberrant expression or activity of EGFR has been strongly linked to the etiology of several human epithelial cancers including but not limited to head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), colorectal cancer (CRC), breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and brain cancer. Thus intense efforts have been made to inhibit the activity of EGFR by designing antibodies against the ligand binding domains (cetuximab and panitumumab) or small molecules against the tyrosine kinase domains (erlotinib, gefitinib, and lapatinib). Although targeting membrane bound EGFR has shown benefit a new and emerging role for the EGFR is now being elucidated. In this review we will summarize the current knowledge of the nuclear EGFR signaling network, including how it is trafficked to the nucleus, the functions it serves in the nucleus, and how these functions impact cancer progression, survival and response to chemotherapeutics.
nuclear EGFR; transcription factor; poor overall survival; resistance
The proto-oncogene c-Src (Src) is a nonreceptor tyrosine kinase whose expression and activity is correlated with advanced malignancy and poor prognosis in a variety of human cancers. Nine additional enzymes with homology to Src have been identified and collectively are referred to as the Src family kinases (SFKs). Together, SFKs represent the largest family of nonreceptor tyrosine kinases and interact directly with receptor tyrosine kinases, G-protein-coupled receptors, steroid receptors, signal transducers and activators of transcription and molecules involved in cell adhesion and migration. These interactions lead to a diverse array of biological functions including proliferation, cell growth, differentiation, cell shape, motility, migration, angiogenesis, and survival. Studies investigating mutational activation of Src in human cancers suggest this may be a rare event and wild-type Src is weakly oncogenic. Thus, the role of Src in the development and progression of human cancer has remained unclear. Recently, it has been suggested that increased SFK protein levels and, more importantly, SFK tyrosine kinase activity is linked to cancer progression and metastatic disease by facilitating the action of other signaling proteins. This accumulating body of evidence indicates that SFKs may represent a promising therapeutic target for the treatment of solid tumors. This review discusses the role of SFKs in solid tumors and the recent therapeutic advances aimed at targeting this family of tyrosine kinases in cancer.
c-Src; solid tumors; Src family kinases; molecular inhibitors
The treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) remains one of the largest hurdles in cancer therapeutics to date. The most advanced treatment option for mCRC patients are anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that bind to and inhibit the activity of EGFR. While the use of anti-EGFR mABs has had great impact in the treatment of mCRC, it has now been widely accepted that mCRC tumors with a mutation in the small GTPase KRAS do not respond to these therapies. KRAS mutations allow for EGFR independent activation of various oncogenic signaling cascades. In attempts to inhibit KRAS mutant tumor growth, BRAF, MEK and farsenyltransferase inhibitors have been used, however, their clinical efficacy is still accruing in the setting of CRC. Recent data suggests that various other inhibitors, including inhibitors of Src family kinases (SFK) and hepatocyte growth factor receptor (MET), may have potential preclinical and clinical success in KRAS mutant tumors. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly clear that different KRAS missense mutations may have varied biological responses to cetuximab, suggesting that cetuximab may still be a potential therapeutic option in some KRAS mutant tumors. In this review, we highlight the importance for both improved multimodality approaches for treating KRAS mutant mCRC tumors and stratification of KRAS mutations in response to different treatment regimes in order to optimize the best possible care for mCRC patients.
EGFR; GTPase; KRAS; cetuximab; metastatic colorectal cancer; resistance
Background and Purpose
The aberrant expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been linked to the etiology of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The first major phase III trial combining cetuximab with radiation confirmed a strong survival advantage. However, both cetuximab and radiation can promote EGFR translocation to the nucleus where it enhances resistance to both of these modalities. In this report we sought to determine how to block cetuximab and radiation–induced translocation of EGFR to the nucleus in HNSCC cell lines.
Material and Methods
We utilized three established HNSCC cell lines, SCC1, SCC6 and SCC1483 and measured nuclear translocation of EGFR after treatment with cetuximab or radiation. We then utilized dasatinib (BMS-354825), a potent, orally bioavailable inhibitor of several tyrosine kinases, including the Src Family Kinases, to determine if SFKs blockade could abrogate cetuximab and radiation-induced nuclear EGFR translocation.
Cetuximab and radiation treatment of all three HNSCC lines lead to translocation of the EGFR to the nucleus. Blockade of SFKs abrogated cetuximab and radiation-induced EGFR translocation to the nucleus.
The data presented in this report suggests that both cetuximab and radiation can promote EGFR translocation to the nucleus and dasatinib can inhibit this process. Collectively these findings may suggest that dasatinib can limit EGFR translocation to the nucleus and may enhance radiotherapy plus cetuximab in HNSCC.
EGFR; cetuximab; radiation; Src family kinases; dasatinib; head and neck cancer
KRAS mutation is a predictive biomarker for resistance to cetuximab (Erbitux®) in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). This study sought to determine if KRAS mutant CRC lines could be sensitized to cetuximab using dasatinib (BMS-354825, sprycel®) a potent, orally bioavailable inhibitor of several tyrosine kinases, including the Src Family Kinases. We analyzed 16 CRC lines for: 1) KRAS mutation status, 2) dependence on mutant KRAS signaling, 3) expression level of EGFR and SFKs. From these analyses, we selected three KRAS mutant (LS180, LoVo, and HCT116) cell lines, and two KRAS wild type cell lines (SW48 and CaCo2). In vitro, using Poly-D-Lysine/laminin plates, KRAS mutant cell lines were resistant to cetuximab whereas parental controls showed sensitivity to cetuximab. Treatment with cetuximab and dasatinib showed a greater anti-proliferative effect on KRAS mutant line as compared to either agent alone both in vitro and in vivo. To investigate potential mechanisms for this anti-proliferative response in the combinatorial therapy we performed Human Phospho-kinase Antibody Array analysis measuring the relative phosphorylation levels of phosphorylation of 39 intracellular proteins in untreated, cetuximab, dasatinib or the combinatorial treatment in LS180, LoVo and HCT116 cells. The results of this experiment showed a decrease in a broad spectrum of kinases centered on the β-catenin pathway, the classical MAPK pathway, AKT/mTOR pathway and the family of STAT transcription factors when compared to the untreated control or monotherapy treatments. Next we analyzed tumor growth with cetuximab, dasatinib or the combination in vivo. KRAS mutant xenografts showed resistance to cetuximab therapy, whereas KRAS wild type demonstrated an anti-tumor response when treated with cetuximab. KRAS mutant tumors exhibited minimal response to dasatinib monotherapy. However, as in vitro, KRAS mutant lines exhibited a response to the combination of cetuximab and dasatinib. Combinatorial treatment of KRAS mutant xenografts resulted in decreased cell proliferation as measured by Ki67 and higher rates of apoptosis as measured by TUNEL. The data presented herein indicate that dasatinib can sensitize KRAS mutant CRC tumors to cetuximab and may do so by altering the activity of several key-signaling pathways. Further, these results suggest that signaling via the EGFR and SFKs may be necessary for cell proliferation and survival of KRAS mutant CRC tumors. This data strengthen the rationale for clinical trials in this genetic setting combining cetuximab and dasatinib.
Cetuximab; resistance; KRAS mutation; dasatinib; EGFR; SRC; colorectal cancer
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a ubiquitously expressed receptor tyrosine kinase involved in the etiology of several human cancers. Cetuximab is an EGFR blocking-antibody that has been approved for the treatment of patients with cancers of the head and neck (HNSCC) and metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Previous reports have shown that EGFR translocation to the nucleus is associated with cell proliferation. Here we investigated mechanisms of acquired resistance to cetuximab using a model derived from the non-small cell lung cancer line H226. We demonstrated that cetuximab-resistant cells overexpress HER family ligands including epidermal growth factor (EGF), amphiregulin (AR), heparin-binding EGF (HB-EGF) and β-cellulin. Overexpression of these ligands is associated with the nuclear translocation of the EGFR and this process was mediated by the Src family kinases (SFK). Treatment of cetuximab-resistant cells with the SFK inhibitor, dasatinib, resulted in loss of nuclear EGFR, increased membrane expression of the EGFR and re-sensitization to cetuximab. In addition, expression of a nuclear localization sequence tagged EGFR in cetuximab-sensitive cells increased resistance to cetuximab both in vitro and in mouse xenografts. Collectively, these data suggest that nuclear expression of EGFR may be an important molecular determinant of resistance to cetuximab therapy and provides a rationale for investigating nuclear EGFR as a biomarker for cetuximab response. Further, these data suggest a rationale for the design of clinical trials that examine the value of treating patients with cetuximab-resistant tumors with inhibitors of SFKs in combination with cetuximab.
EGFR; nuclear; cetuximab; resistance; Src-family kinases; dasatinib
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that plays a major role in oncogenesis. Cetuximab is an EGFR-blocking antibody that is FDA approved for use in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Although cetuximab has shown strong clinical benefit for a subset of cancer patients, most become refractory to cetuximab therapy. We reported that cetuximab-resistant NSCLC line NCI-H226 cells have increased steady-state expression and activity of EGFR secondary to altered trafficking/degradation and this increase in EGFR expression and activity lead to hyper-activation of HER3 and down stream signals to survival. We now present data that Src family kinases (SFKs) are highly activated in cetuximab-resistant cells and enhance EGFR activation of HER3 and PI(3)K/Akt. Studies using the Src kinase inhibitor dasatinib decreased HER3 and PI(3)K/Akt activity. In addition, cetuximab-resistant cells were resensitized to cetuximab when treated with dasatinib. These results indicate that SFKs and EGFR cooperate in acquired resistance to cetuximab and suggest a rationale for clinical strategies that investigate combinatorial therapy directed at both the EGFR and SFKs in patients with acquired resistance to cetuximab.
EGFR; cetuximab; resistance; Src-family kinases; dasatinib
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a devastating disease, and current therapies have not greatly improved the 5-year survival rates. Topoisomerase (Top) inhibition is a treatment modality for SCLC; however, the response is short lived. Consequently, our research has focused on improving SCLC therapeutics through the identification of novel targets. Previously, we identified MNNG HOS transforming gene (MET) to be overexpressed and functional in SCLC. Herein, we investigated the therapeutic potential of combinatorial targeting of MET using SU11274 and Top1 using 7-ethyl-10-hydroxycamptothecin (SN-38). MET and TOP1 gene copy numbers and protein expression were determined in 29 patients with limited (n = 11) and extensive (n = 18) disease. MET gene copy number was significantly increased (>6 copies) in extensive disease compared with limited disease (P = 0.015). Similar TOP1 gene copy numbers were detected in limited and extensive disease. Immunohistochemical staining revealed a significantly higher Top1 nuclear expression in extensive (0.93) versus limited (0.15) disease (P = 0.04). Interestingly, a significant positive correlation was detected between MET gene copy number and Top1 nuclear expression (r = 0.5). In vitro stimulation of H82 cells revealed hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)–induced nuclear colocalization of p-MET and Top1. Furthermore, activation of the HGF/MET axis enhanced Top1 activity, which was abrogated by SU11274. Combination of SN-38 with SU11274 dramatically decreased SCLC growth as compared with either drug alone. Collectively, these findings suggest that the combinatorial inhibition of MET and Top1 is a potentially efficacious treatment strategy for SCLC.
small cell lung cancer; MET; topoisomerase-I; SU11274; SN-38
Cetuximab, an anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, is used to treat several cancers. However, many patients who initially respond to cetuximab acquire resistance. To examine mechanisms of acquired resistance, we developed a series of cetuximab-resistant (CtxR) clones derived from the cetuximab sensitive (CtxS) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line H226. Previous studies characterizing this model revealed that: 1) EGFR was robustly overexpressed in CtxR clones due to decreased EGFR ubiquitination and degradation and 2) CtxR clones expressed increased HER2 and HER3 activation resulting in constitutive activation of the PI3K/AKT signaling axis. These findings suggest that dual targeting HER family receptors would be highly beneficial in the CtxR setting.
Since HER3 has been implicated in resistance to EGFR inhibitors, the efficacy of dually targeting both EGFR and HER3 in CtxR models was evaluated. First, EGFR and HER3 expression were knocked down with siRNAs. Compared to the CtxS parental cell line (HP), all CtxR clones exhibited robust decreases in cell proliferation upon dual knockdown. Analysis of CtxR clones indicated that neuregulin-1 was highly overexpressed compared to HP cells. Incubation of HP cells with neuregulin-1 rendered them resistant to cetuximab. Next, dual treatment of CtxR clones with cetuximab and the HER3 neutralizing monoclonal antibody (mAb) U3-1287 led to potent anti-proliferative effects. Blockade of EGFR with cetuximab resulted in inactivation of MAPK, while blockade of HER3 with U3-1287 resulted in the inactivation of AKT. Treatment with both mAbs resulted in knockdown of both signaling pathways simultaneously. HER2 was also strongly inactivated upon dual mAb therapy, suggesting that this treatment regimen can diminish signaling from three HER family receptors. De novo CtxR H226 mouse xenografts were established to determine if dual therapy could overcome acquired resistance to cetuximab in vivo. Tumors that had acquired resistance to cetuximab were significantly growth delayed upon dual treatment of U3-1287 and cetuximab compared to those continued on cetuximab only. Combinatorial-treated xenograft tumors expressed decreased Ki67 and increased cleaved caspase-3 levels compared to tumors treated with either monotherapy.
These studies demonstrate that dually targeting HER family receptors with antibody-based therapies can overcome acquired resistance to cetuximab.
EGFR; HER3; U3-1287; Cetuximab; Acquired cetuximab-resistance; Non-small cell lung cancer; MAPK; AKT
Background and Purpose
EGFR-inhibitor Cetuximab (C225) improves the efficacy of radiotherapy in only a subgroup of HNSCC patients. Identification of predictive tumor characteristics is essential to improve patient selection.
Material and Methods
Response to C225 and/or radiotherapy was assessed with tumor growth delay assays in 4 HNSCC xenograft models with varying EGFR-expression levels. Hypoxia and proliferation was quantified with immunohistochemistry and expression of proteins involved in C225-resistance with western blot.
EGFR-expression did not predict response to C225 and/or radiotherapy. Reduction of hypoxia by C225 was only observed in SCCNij202, which was highly sensitive to C225. Proliferation changes correlated with response to C225 and C225 combined with radiotherapy, as proliferation decreased after C225 treatment in C225-sensitive SCCNij202 and after combined treatment in SCCNij185, which showed a synergistic effect to combined C225-radiotherapy. Furthermore, C225-resistant SCCNij153 tumors expressed high levels of (activated) HER3 and MET.
EGFR-expression is needed for C225-response, but is not sufficient to predict response to C225 with or without radiotherapy. However, basal expression of additional growth factor receptors and effects on proliferation, but not hypoxia, correlated with response to combined C225-radiotherapy treatment and are potential clinically relevant predictive biomarkers.
head and neck cancer; EGFR-inhibition; tumor microenvironment; radiotherapy; tyrosine kinase receptors
Kinases downstream of growth factor receptors have been implicated in radioresistance and are, therefore, attractive targets to improve radiotherapy outcome in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients.
An antibody-based array was used to quantify the expression levels of multiple phospho-kinases involved in growth factor signaling in nine untreated or irradiated HNSCC lines. Radiosensitivity was assessed with clonogenic cell survival assays and correlated with the expression levels of the phospho-kinases. Inhibitors of the kinases that were associated with radiosensitivity were tested for their ability to increase radiosensitivity in the 3 most radioresistant HNSCC lines.
The basal expression of phosphorylated Yes, Src and STAT5A, and the expression after radiotherapy of phosphorylated AKT, MSK1/2, Src, Lyn, Fyn, Hck, and STAT6, were correlated with radiosensitivity in the panel of HNSCC lines. In combination with radiotherapy, inhibitors of AKT, p38 and Src Family Kinases (SFK) were variably able to reduce survival, whereas MEK1/2, STAT5 and STAT6 inhibition reduced survival in all cell lines. The combined effect of radiotherapy and the kinase inhibitors on cell survival was mostly additive, although also supra-additive effects were observed for AKT, MEK1/2, p38 and STAT5 inhibition.
Kinases of the AKT, MAPK, STAT and SFK pathways correlated with radiosensitivity in a panel of HNSCC lines. Particularly inhibitors against MEK1/2, STAT5 and STAT6 were able to decrease survival in combination with radiotherapy. Hence, inhibitors against these kinases have the potential to improve radiotherapy outcome in HNSCC patients and further research is warranted to confirm this in vivo.
Radiation resistance; Head and neck cancer; Kinase inhibitors; STAT5; STAT6
Nuclear localized HER family receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) have been observed in primary tumor specimens and cancer cell lines for nearly two decades. Inside the nucleus, HER family members (EGFR, HER2, and HER3) have been shown to function as co-transcriptional activators for various cancer-promoting genes. However, the regions of each receptor that confer transcriptional potential remain poorly defined. The current study aimed to map the putative transactivation domains (TADs) of the HER3 receptor. To accomplish this goal, various intracellular regions of HER3 were fused to the DNA binding domain of the yeast transcription factor Gal4 (Gal4DBD) and tested for their ability to transactivate Gal4 UAS-luciferase. Results from these analyses demonstrated that the C-terminal domain of HER3 (CTD, amino acids distal to the tyrosine kinase domain) contained potent transactivation potential. Next, nine HER3-CTD truncation mutants were constructed to map minimal regions of transactivation potential using the Gal4 UAS-luciferase based system. These analyses identified a bipartite region of 34 (B1) and 27 (B2) amino acids in length that conferred the majority of HER3’s transactivation potential. Next, we identified full-length nuclear HER3 association and regulation of a 122 bp region of the cyclin D1 promoter. To understand how the B1 and B2 regions influenced the transcriptional functions of nuclear HER3, we performed cyclin D1 promoter-luciferase assays in which HER3 deleted of the B1 and B2 regions was severely hindered in regulating this promoter. Further, the overexpression of HER3 enhanced cyclin D1 mRNA expression, while HER3 deleted of its identified TADs was hindered at doing so. Thus, the ability for HER3 to function as a transcriptional co-activator may be dependent on specific C-terminal TADs.
Src family kinases (SFKs) have been implicated in resistance to both radiation and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibition. Therefore, we investigated whether inhibition of SFK through dasatinib (DSB) can enhance the effect of radiotherapy in two in vivo human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) models. Response to DSB and/or radiotherapy was assessed with tumor growth delay assays in two HNSCC xenograft models, SCCNij153 and SCCNij202. Effects on EGFR signaling were evaluated with Western blot analysis, and effects on DNA repair, hypoxia, and proliferation were investigated with immunohistochemistry. DSB and radiotherapy induced a significant growth delay in both HNSCC xenograft models, although to a lesser extent in SCCNij202. DSB did not inhibit phosphorylated protein kinase B (pAKT) or phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (pERK1/2) but did inhibit (phosphorylated) DNA-dependent protein kinase. Moreover, DSB reduced repair of radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks as shown by an increase of p53-binding protein 1 (53BP1) staining 24 hours after radiation. This effect on DNA repair was only observed in the cell compartment where phosphorylated SFK (pSFK) was expressed: for SCCNij153 tumors in both normoxic and hypoxic areas and for SCCNij202 tumors only in hypoxic areas. No consistent effects of DSB on hypoxia or proliferation were observed. In conclusion, DSB enhances the effect of radiotherapy in vivo by inhibition of radiation-induced DNA repair and is a promising way to improve outcome in HNSCC patients.
Cytoskeletal and focal adhesion abnormalities are observed in several types of cancer, including lung cancer. We have previously reported that paxillin (PXN) was mutated, amplified, and overexpressed in a significant number of lung cancer patient samples, that PXN protein was upregulated in more advanced stages of lung cancer compared with lower stages, and that the PXN gene was also amplified in some pre-neoplastic lung lesions. Among the mutations investigated, we previously found that PXN variant A127T in lung cancer cells enhanced cell proliferation and focal adhesion formation and colocalized with the anti-apoptotic protein B Cell Lymphoma 2 (BCL-2), which is known to localize to the mitochondria, among other sites. To further explore the effects of activating mutations of PXN on mitochondrial function, we cloned and expressed wild-type PXN and variants containing the most commonly occurring PXN mutations (P46S, P52L, G105D, A127T, P233L, T255I, D399N, E423K, P487L, and K506R) in a GFP-tagged vector using HEK-293 human embryonic kidney cells. Utilizing live-cell imaging to systematically study the effects of wild-type PXN vs. mutants, we created a model that recapitulates the salient features of the measured dynamics and conclude that compared with wild-type, some mutant clones confer enhanced focal adhesion and lamellipodia formation (A127T, P233L, and P487L) and some confer increased association with BCL-2, Dynamin-related Protein-1 (DRP-1), and Mitofusion-2 (MFN-2) proteins (P233L and D399N). Further, PXN mutants, through their interactions with BCL-2 and DRP-1, could regulate cisplatin drug resistance in human lung cancer cells. The data reported herein suggest that mutant PXN variants play a prominent role in mitochondrial dynamics with direct implications on lung cancer progression and hence, deserve further exploration as therapeutic targets.
mitochondria; paxillin; gene mutation; cell motility; fission; fusion; mitochondrial dynamics
There is presently great interest in mechanisms of acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors that are now being used widely in the treatment of a variety of common human cancers. To investigate these mechanisms we established EGFR inhibitor resistant clones from non-small cell lung cancer cells. A comparative analysis revealed that acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors was associated consistently with the loss of p53 and cross-resistance to radiation. To examine the role of p53, we first knocked down p53 in sensitive parental cells and found a reduction in sensitivity to both EGFR inhibitors and radiation. Conversely, restoration of functional p53 in EGFR inhibitor resistant cells was sufficient to resensitize them to EGFR inhibitors or radiation in vitro and in vivo. Further studies indicate that p53 may enhance sensitivity to EGFR inhibitors and radiation via induction of cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and DNA damage repair. Taken together, these findings suggest a central role of p53 in the development of acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors and prompt consideration to apply p53 restoration strategies in future clinical trials that combine EGFR inhibitors and radiation.
EGFR; Inhibitor; Radiation; Resistance; p53
Only a minority of cancer patients benefits from the combination of EGFR-inhibition and radiotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). A potential resistance mechanism is activation of EGFR and/or downstream pathways by stimuli in the microenvironment. The aim of this study was to find molecular targets induced by the microenvironment by determining the in vitro and in vivo expression of proteins of the EGFR-signaling network in 6 HNSCC lines. As hypoxia is an important microenvironmental parameter associated with poor outcome in solid tumors after radiotherapy, we investigated the relationship with hypoxia in vitro and in vivo.
Six human HNSCC cell lines were both cultured as cell lines (in vitro) and grown as xenograft tumors (in vivo). Expression levels were determined via western blot analysis and localization of markers was assessed via immunofluorescent staining. To determine the effect of hypoxia and pAKT-inhibition on cell survival, cells were incubated at 0.5% O2 and treated with MK-2206.
We observed strong in vitro-in vivo correlations for EGFR, pEGFR and HER2 (rs=0.77, p=0.10, rs=0.89, p=0.03) and rs=0.93, p=0.02, respectively), but not for pAKT, pERK1/2 or pSTAT3 (all rs<0.55 and p>0.30). In vivo, pAKT expression was present in hypoxic cells and pAKT and hypoxia were significantly correlated (rs=0.51, p=0.04). We confirmed in vitro that hypoxia induces activation of AKT. Further, pAKT-inhibition via MK-2206 caused a significant decrease in survival in hypoxic cells (p<0.01), but not in normoxic cells.
These data suggest that (p)EGFR and HER2 expression is mostly determined by intrinsic features of the tumor cell, while the activation of downstream kinases is highly influenced by the tumor microenvironment. We show that hypoxia induces activation of AKT both in vitro and in vivo, and that hypoxic cells can be specifically targeted by pAKT-inhibition. Targeting pAKT is thus a potential way to overcome therapy resistance induced by hypoxia and improve patient outcome.
Head and neck cancer; Tumor microenvironment; Hypoxia; pAKT; EGFR