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Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Apr;9(4):1566-72.

Combination of a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor with epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor ZD1839 and protein kinase A antisense causes cooperative antitumor and antiangiogenic effect.

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Dipartimento di Endocrinologia e Oncologia Molecolare e Clinica, Università di Napoli Federico II, 80131 Napoli, Italy.



Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and protein kinase A type I(PKAI) play an important role in the control of cancer cell growth and angiogenesis. Inhibitors of EGFR and PKAI have antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo in a variety of tumor types, and some of these agents are active after oral administration. Increasing evidence shows that cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 also plays a role in promoting cancer cell proliferation and angiogenesis. COX-2 expression can be induced by EGFR activation and is regulated by cAMP and PKA. Combination of an EGFR inhibitor with a nonselective COX-1/COX-2 inhibitor prevents the development of intestinal cancer in nude mice. Therefore, we investigated whether any cooperative antitumor effect can be obtained by the combined blockade of COX-2, EGFR, and PKAI.


The COX-2 inhibitor SC-236 was combined with the selective EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor ZD1839 (Iressa) and the DNA/RNA-mixed backbone oligonucleotide AS-PKAI to study their effect on human cancer growth and angiogenesis, measuring vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor expression and vessel formation, in vitro and after oral administration of these agents in mice.


A cooperative effect was observed with SC-236 in combination with either ZD1839 or AS-PKAI, as well as with all three agents together, on the proliferation of human colon and breast cancer cells in soft agar at doses that were ineffective for each agent alone. The antiproliferative effect was accompanied by inhibition of COX-2 expression. Moreover, combination of SC-236 with either agent or the triple combination markedly reduced VEGF secretion in the conditioned medium and completely suppressed VEGF and basic fibroblast growth factor expression. In nude mice bearing human colon cancer xenografts, a low, noninhibitory dose of SC-236 with ZD1839 and AS-PKAI, all given p.o., caused a dramatic cooperative antitumor effect, with no histological evidence of tumor in 60% of mice 5 weeks after treatment withdrawal, at which time all mice were alive. Moreover, analysis of tumor specimens revealed inhibition of vessel formation and expression of COX-2 and VEGF.


This is the first demonstration that three novel agents blocking multiple signaling pathways, in absence of cytotoxic drugs, may have a potent antitumor and antiangiogenic activity after oral administration. Because all agents are under clinical evaluation, our results provide a rationale to translate this feasible therapeutic strategy into a clinical setting.

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