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Cancer Biol Ther. 2010 Sep 15;10(6):555-63. Epub 2010 Sep 30.

ErbB3 expression promotes tumorigenesis in pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

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Department of Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA.


Historically, ErbB3 has been overlooked within the ErbB receptor family due to its perceived lack of tyrosine kinase activity. We have previously demonstrated that in pancreatic cancer ErbB3 is the preferred dimerization partner of EGFR, ErbB3 protein expression level directly correlates with the anti-proliferative effect of erlotinib (an EGFR-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor), and transient knockdown of ErbB3 expression results in acquired resistance to EGFR-targeted therapy. In this study, we develop a stable isogenic model of ErbB3 expression in an attempt to decipher ErbB3's true contribution to pancreatic cancer tumorigenesis and to examine how this receptor affects cellular sensitivity to EGFR-targeted therapy. Analysis of the EGFR-ErbB3 heterodimer demonstrates that ligand-induced PI3K-AKT signaling is limited to ErbB3-expressing cells and that this signaling cascade can be partially abrogated by inhibiting EGFR function with erlotinib. Using our model of exogenous ErbB3 expression we showed a direct relationship between ErbB3 protein levels and increased pancreatic cancer cell proliferation in vitro. In vivo, ErbB3(+)PANC-1 xenografts had a significantly larger tumor volume than PANC-1 control xenografts (ErbB3-PANC-1) and displayed increased sensitivity to EGFR-targeted therapy. In pancreatic cancer, ErbB3 appears to be critically involved in EGFR signaling as evidenced by its profound effect on cellular proliferation and its ability to influence response to EGFR-targeted therapy.

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