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Mol Cancer Ther. 2008 Mar;7(3):607-15. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-07-2068.

Combined lapatinib and cetuximab enhance cytotoxicity against gefitinib-resistant lung cancer cells.

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Cancer Research Institute, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Chongno-Gu, Seoul, Korea.


Although non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells with somatic mutations in their epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) initially show a dramatic response to tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), these cells eventually develop resistance to TKI. This resistance may be caused by a secondary T790M mutation in the EGFR tyrosine kinase, which leads to the substitution of methionine for threonine in 790. In this study, we show that a combination of lapatinib and cetuximab overcomes gefitinib resistance in NSCLC with the T790M mutation. We observed that T790M lung cancer cells were resistant to gefitinib, and Stat3 was persistently activated in the resistant cells. A reversible EGFR and HER2 TKI, lapatinib, decreased Stat3 activation by blocking heterodimerization of EGFR and HER2, which led to a modest increase in the inhibitory effect on gefitinib-resistant T790M cells. In addition to lapatinib, the anti-EGFR antibody, cetuximab, induced down-regulation of EGFR and apoptotic cell death in T790M cells. Finally, combined lapatinib and cetuximab treatment resulted in significantly enhanced cytotoxicity against gefitinib-resistant T790M cells in vitro and in vivo. Taken together, these data suggest that treatment with a combination of lapatinib and cetuximab, which induces dimeric dissociation and EGFR down-regulation, appears to be an effective strategy for treatment of patients with EGFR TKI-resistant NSCLC.

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