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Clin Cancer Res. 2012 Sep 15;18(18):4986-96. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-0792. Epub 2012 Jul 23.

Targeting Stat3 abrogates EGFR inhibitor resistance in cancer.

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Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



EGF receptor (EGFR) is upregulated in most epithelial cancers where signaling through EGFR contributes to cancer cell proliferation and survival. The limited clinical efficacy of EGFR inhibitors suggests that identification of resistance mechanisms may identify new pathways for therapeutic targeting. STAT3 is upregulated in many cancers and activated via both EGFR-dependent and -independent pathways. In the present study, we tested the consequences of STAT3 inhibition in EGFR inhibitor-resistant head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and bladder cancer models to determine whether STAT3 blockade can enhance responses to EGFR targeting.


pSTAT3 expression was assessed in human HNSCC tumors that recurred following cetuximab treatment. Cetuximab-sensitive and -resistant cell lines were treated with a STAT3 decoy to determine EC(50) concentrations and the effects on STAT3 target gene expression by Western blotting. In vivo assays included evaluation of antitumor efficacy of STAT3 decoy in cetuximab-sensitive and -resistant models followed by immunoblotting for STAT3 target protein expression.


Targeting STAT3 with a STAT3 decoy reduced cellular viability and the expression of STAT3 target genes in EGFR inhibitor resistance models. The addition of a STAT3 inhibitor to EGFR blocking strategies significantly enhanced antitumor effects in vivo. Biopsies from HNSCC tumors that recurred following cetuximab treatment showed increased STAT3 activation compared with pretreatment biopsies.


These results suggest that STAT3 activation contributes to EGFR inhibitor resistance both in HNSCC and bladder cancer where concomitant targeting of STAT3 may represent an effective treatment strategy.

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