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Neoplasia. 2008 May;10(5):489-500.

Phosphorylated epidermal growth factor receptor on tumor-associated endothelial cells is a primary target for therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

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Department of Cancer Biology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


We determined whether phosphorylated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressed on tumor-associated endothelial cells is a primary target for therapy with EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Human colon cancer cells SW620CE2 (parental) that do not express EGFR or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) but express transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) were transduced with a lentivirus carrying nontargeting small hairpin RNA (shRNA) or TGF-alpha shRNA. The cell lines were implanted into the cecum of nude mice. Two weeks later, treatment began with saline, 4-[R]-phenethylamino-6-[hydroxyl] phenyl-7H-pyrrolo [2,3-D]-pyrimidine (PKI166), or irinotecan. Endothelial cells in parental and nontargeting shRNA tumors expressed phosphorylated EGFR. Therapy with PKI166 alone or with irinotecan produced apoptosis of these endothelial cells and necrosis of the EGFR-negative tumors. Endothelial cells in tumors that did not express TGF-alpha did not express EGFR, and these tumors were resistant to treatment with PKI166. The response of neoplasms to EGFR antagonists has been correlated with EGFR mutations, HER2 expression, Akt activation, and EGFR gene copy number. Our present data using colon cancer cells that do not express EGFR or HER2 suggest that the expression of TGF-alpha by tumor cells leading to the activation of EGFR in tumor-associated endothelial cells is a major determinant for the susceptibility of neoplasms to therapy by specific EGFR-TKI.

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