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
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
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling is strongly implicated in glioblastoma (GBM) tumorigenesis. However, molecular agents targeting EGFR have demonstrated minimal efficacy in clinical trials, suggesting the existence of GBM resistance mechanisms. GBM cells with stem-like properties (CSCs) are highly efficient at tumor initiation and exhibit therapeutic resistance. In this study, GBMCSC lines showed sphere-forming and tumor initiation capacity after EGF withdrawal from cell culture media, compared with normal neural stem cells that rapidly perished after EGF withdrawal. Compensatory activation of related ERBB family receptors (ERBB2 and ERBB3) was observed in GBM CSCs deprived of EGFR signal (EGF deprivation or cetuximab inhibition), suggesting an intrinsic GBM resistance mechanism for EGFR-targeted therapy. Dual inhibition of EGFR and ERBB2 with lapatinib significantly reduced GBM proliferation in colony formation assays compared to cetuximab-mediated EGFR-specific inhibition. Phosphorylation of downstream ERBB signaling components (AKT, ERK1/2) and GBM CSC proliferation were inhibited by lapatinib. Collectively, these findings show that GBM therapeutic resistance to EGFR inhibitors may be explained by compensatory activation of EGFR-related family members (ERBB2, ERBB3) enabling GBM CSC proliferation, and therefore simultaneous blockade of multiple ERBB family members may be required for more efficacious GBM therapy.
A Phase II study of the Src family kinase (SFK) inhibitor dasatinib was recently reported in molecularly unselected patients with metastatic NSCLC. SFK inhibition has a strong rationale as a clinical strategy in NSCLC. The reviewed study unfortunately showed disappointing activity as monotherapy in this molecularly unselected patient cohort and toxicity in terms of pleural effusion was problematic. Therefore, dasatinib as monotherapy in this setting does not appear promising. Nonetheless, the reviewed study may be used in conjunction with other studies of dasatinib in NSCLC to identify patients more likely to benefit from dasatinib either as monotherapy or in combination with other agents. Future studies of dasatinib in NSCLC should examine the agent in combination with EGFR inhibitors and/or cytotoxic chemotherapies.
clinical trial; dasatinib; NSCLC; small molecules
Motesanib is a potent inhibitor of VEGFR1, 2 and 3, PDGFR and Kit receptors. In this report we examine the interaction between motesanib and radiation in vitro and in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) xenograft models.
In vitro assays were performed to assess the impact of motesanib on VEGFR2 signaling pathways in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). HNSCC lines grown as tumor xenografts in athymic nude mice were utilized to assess the in vivo activity of motesanib alone and in combination with radiation.
Motesanib inhibited VEGF-stimulated HUVEC proliferation in vitro, as well as VEGFR2 kinase activity. Additionally motesanib and fractionated radiation showed additive inhibitory effects on HUVEC proliferation. In vivo combination therapy with motesanib and radiation showed increased response compared to drug or radiation alone in UM-SCC1 (p<0.002) and SCC-1483 xenografts (p=0.001); however the combination was not significantly more efficacious than radiation alone in UM-SCC6 xenografts. Xenografts treated with motesanib demonstrated a reduction of vessel penetration into tumor parenchyma, compared to control tumors. Furthermore, triple immunohistochemical staining for vasculature, proliferation, and hypoxia demonstrated well-defined spatial relationships between these parameters in HNSCC xenografts. Motesanib significantly enhanced intratumoral hypoxia in the presence and absence of fractionated radiation.
These studies identify a favorable interaction when combining radiation and motesanib in HNSCC models. Data presented suggest that motesanib reduces blood vessel penetration into tumors and thereby increases intratumoral hypoxia. These findings suggest that clinical investigations examining combinations of radiation and motesanib are warranted in HNSCC.
Approximately 50,000 new cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) will be diagnosed in the United States (US) in 2009. Whereas the gradual decline in smoking rates in the US is a highly favorable trend, future global HNSCC incidence will likely reflect the increased marketing and penetration of tobacco products across several of our most populous countries. Although modern surgery, radiation and conventional chemotherapy strategies for HNSCC continue to provide gradual improvement in outcome, the first molecular targeting approach to demonstrate a survival advantage for HNSCC patients has recently emerged in the context of EGFR biology. The scientific background and current challenges accompanying this recent advance are described in this article as are several additional promising molecular targets for HNSCC. There is cautious anticipation that the logical advancement of molecular targeting agents in conjunction with radiation may afford increased cure rates and diminished normal tissue toxicity profiles for HNSCC patients over the years to come.
EGFR is a tyrosine kinase that participates in the regulation of cellular homeostasis. Following ligand binding, EGFR stimulates downstream cell signaling cascades that influence cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, survival and complex processes, including angiogenesis and tumorigenesis. EGFR has been strongly implicated in the biology of human epithelial malignancies, with therapeutic applications in cancers of the colon, head and neck, lung, and pancreas. Accordingly, targeting EGFR has been intensely pursued, with the development of a series of promising molecular inhibitors for use in clinical oncology. As is common in cancer therapy, challenges with respect to treatment resistance emerge over time. This situation is certainly true of EGFR inhibitor therapies, where intrinsic and acquired resistance is now well recognized. In this Review, we provide a brief overview regarding the biology of EGFR biology, preclinical and clinical development of EGFR inhibitors, and molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of treatment resistance. A greater understanding of the mechanisms that lead to EGFR resistance may provide valuable insights to help design new strategies that will enhance the impact of this promising class of inhibitors for the treatment of cancer.
In this report, we examine the interaction between panitumumab, a fully human anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody, and radiation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and xenografts.
Methods and Materials
HNSCC lines UM-SCC-1 and SCC-1483 as well as the NSCLC line H226 were studied. Tumor xenografts in athymic nude mice were utilized to assess the in vivo activity of panitumumab alone and in combination with radiation. In vitro assays were performed to assess the impact of panitumumab on radiation-induced cell signaling, apoptosis, and DNA damage.
Panitumumab increased radiosensitivity as measured by clonogenic survival assay. Radiation-induced EGFR phosphorylation and downstream signaling through MAPK and STAT3 was inhibited by panitumumab. Panitumumab augmented radiationinduced DNA damage by 1.2–1.6-fold in each of the cell lines studied as assessed by residual γ-H2AX foci after radiation. Radiation-induced apoptosis was increased 1.4–1.9-fold by panitumumab, as evidenced by Annexin V-FITC staining and flow cytometry. In vivo, combination therapy with panitumumab and radiation was superior to panitumumab or radiation alone in H226 xenografts (p=0.01) and showed a similar trend in SCC-1483 xenografts (p=0.08). These in vivo findings correlated with immunohistochemistry examination of PCNA; panitumumab with radiation markedly reduced PCNA staining in tumor xenografts.
These studies identify a favorable interaction when combining radiation and panitumumab in upper aerodigestive tract tumor models, both in vitro and in vivo. These data suggest that clinical investigations examining the combination of radiation and panitumumab in the treatment of epithelial tumors warrant further pursuit.
Panitumumab; radiation; EGFR
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is recognized as a key mediator of proliferation and progression in many human tumors. A series of EGFR specific inhibitors have recently gained FDA approval in oncology. These strategies of EGFR inhibition have demonstrated major tumor regressions in approximately 10–20% of advanced cancer patients. However, many tumors eventually manifest resistance to treatment. Efforts to better understand the underlying mechanisms of acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors, and potential strategies to overcome resistance, are highly needed.
To develop cell lines with acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors we utilized the human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) tumor cell line SCC-1. Cells were treated with increasing concentrations of cetuximab, gefitinib or erlotinib and characterized for the molecular changes in the EGFR-inhibitor resistant lines relative to the EGFR-inhibitor sensitive lines.
EGFR inhibitor-resistant lines were able to maintain their resistant phenotype in both drug-free medium and in athymic nude mouse xenografts. In addition, EGFR inhibitor-resistant lines showed a markedly increased proliferation rate. EGFR inhibitor-resistant lines had elevated levels of phosphorylated EGFR, MAPK, AKT and STAT3 which were associated with reduced apoptotic capacity. Subsequent in vivo experiments indicated enhanced angiogenic potential in EGFR inhibitor-resistant lines. Finally, EGFR inhibitor-resistant lines demonstrated cross resistance to ionizing radiation.
We have developed EGFR inhibitor-resistant HNSCC cell lines. This model provides a valuable preclinical tool to investigate molecular mechanisms of acquired resistance to EGFR blockade.
EGFR; Cetuximab; Gefitinib; Erlotinib; Resistance
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a central regulator of proliferation and progression in human cancers. Five EGFR inhibitors, two monoclonal antibodies and three TKIs, have recently gained FDA approval in oncology (cetuximab, panitumumab, erlotinib, gefitinib and lapatinib). These strategies of EGFR inhibition demonstrate major tumor regressions in approximately 10–20% of advanced cancer patients. However, many tumors eventually manifest acquired resistance to treatment. In this study we established and characterized a model to study molecular mechanisms of acquired resistance to the EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab. Using high-throughput screening we examined the activity of 42 receptor tyrosine kinases in resistant tumor cells following chronic exposure to cetuximab. Cells developing acquired resistance to cetuximab exhibited increased steady-state EGFR expression secondary to alterations in trafficking and degradation. In addition, cetuximab-resistant cells manifested strong activation of HER2, HER3 and cMET. EGFR upregulation promoted increased dimerization with HER2 and HER3 leading to their transactivation. Blockade of EGFR and HER2 led to loss of HER3 and PI(3)K/Akt activity. These data suggest that acquired-resistance to cetuximab is accompanied by dysregulation of EGFR internalization/degradation and subsequent EGFR-dependent activation of HER3. Taken together these findings suggest a rationale for the clinical evaluation of combinatorial anti-HER targeting approaches in tumors manifesting acquired resistance to cetuximab.
EGFR; cetuximab; acquired-resistance
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.
We hypothesized that chronic inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) by cetuximab, a monoclonal anti-EGFR antibody, induces up-regulation of its ligands resulting in resistance and that microRNAs (miRs) play an important role in the ligand regulation in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).
Genome-wide changes in gene and miR expression were determined in cetuximab-sensitive cell line, SCC1, and its resistant derivative 1Cc8 using DNA microarrays and RT-PCR. The effects of differentially expressed EGFR ligands and miRs were examined by MTS, colony formation, ELISA, and western blot assays. Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) and its regulator, miR-212, were differentially expressed with statistical significance when SCC1 and 1Cc8 were compared for gene and miR expression. Stimulation with HB-EGF induced cetuximab resistance in sensitive cell lines. Inhibition of HB-EGF and the addition of miR-212 mimic induced cetuximab sensitivity in resistant cell lines. MicroRNA-212 and HB-EGF expression were inversely correlated in an additional 33 HNSCC and keratinocyte cell lines. Six tumors and 46 plasma samples from HNSCC patients were examined for HB-EGF levels. HB-EGF plasma levels were lower in newly diagnosed HNSCC patients when compared to patients with recurrent disease.
Increased expression of HB-EGF due to down-regulation of miR-212 is a possible mechanism of cetuximab resistance. The combination of EGFR ligand inhibitors or miR modulators with cetuximab may improve the clinical outcome of cetuximab therapy in HNSCC.