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Cancer Res. 2005 Nov 1;65(21):9868-75.

Proliferation of human neuroblastomas mediated by the epidermal growth factor receptor.

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Division of Oncology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4318, USA.


Neuroblastoma is a common solid tumor of childhood that is derived from the neural crest. Expression of epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors (EGFRs) has been associated with enhanced cell growth and aggressive behavior in other tumors. Here, we examined the expression profile of EGFRs in neuroblastoma cell lines and primary tumors. We found that all 13 neuroblastoma cell lines examined expressed EGFR1 (HER1), most at readily detectable levels. Low levels of other human EGFR family receptors were also detected in almost all cell lines. All primary tumors examined expressed readily detectable levels of HER1 and HER3 and lower levels of HER2 and HER4. EGF had a significant effect on the proliferation of neuroblastoma cell lines in vitro. EGF treatment (100 ng/mL) of the cell lines SY5Y and NLF significantly increased cell number (P < 0.01). EGF stimulated more cells to enter S and G2-M phase, as suggested by flow cytometry, indicating that EGF increases cell number by increasing proliferation, with no appreciable change in apoptosis. EGF exposure resulted in receptor autophosphorylation and activation of both the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathways. Exposure to 0.5 micromol/L ZD1839, a HER1-specific inhibitor, caused a 40% to 50% reduction in the number of SY5Y and NLF cells grown in medium containing 10% fetal bovine serum (P < 0.01). Even at 0.01 micromol/L, ZD1839 inhibited autophosphorylation of HER1 by EGF. At 0.1 micromol/L, it also blocked phosphorylation of AKT, but not MAPK, in NLF cells. Additional studies showed that the PI3K/AKT-specific inhibitor LY294002 had a more profound effect than the MAPK-specific inhibitor U0126 in blocking EGF-induced cell proliferation. This suggests that the PI3K/AKT pathway is the main signaling pathway responsible for the proliferation effects of EGF in neuroblastomas. Our results also indicate that ZD1839 is a potent inhibitor of neuroblastoma cell proliferation; therefore, it may be a useful, biologically based therapeutic agent for these tumors.

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