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J Hematol Oncol. 2011 Jan 21;4:5. doi: 10.1186/1756-8722-4-5.

Molecular mechanism of the schedule-dependent synergistic interaction in EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer cell lines treated with paclitaxel and gefitinib.

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Guangdong Lung Cancer Institute, Medical Research Center of Guangdong General Hospital & Guangdong Academy of Medical Sciences, No,106, Zhongshan 2nd Rd, Guangzhou, Postal code:510080, People's Republic of China.



Chemotherapy combined concurrently with TKIs produced a negative interaction and failed to improve survival when compared with chemotherapy or TKIs alone in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The present study investigated the sequence-dependent interaction between paclitaxel and gefitinib and clarified the underlying mechanism.


The effects on cell proliferation, EGFR signaling pathway, and TGFα expression were evaluated in a panel of human NSCLC cell lines harboring EGFR mutations with three different combination sequences: sequential treatment with paclitaxel followed by gefitinib (T→G), sequential treatment with gefitinib followed by paclitaxel (G→T), or concomitant treatment (T + G).


The sequence-dependent anti-proliferative effects differed between EGFR-TKI-sensitive and -resistant cell lines carrying EGFR mutations. A synergistic anti-proliferative activity was obtained with paclitaxel treatment followed by gefitinib in all cell lines, with mean CI values of 0.63 in Hcc827, 0.54 in PC-9, 0.81 in PC-9/GR, and 0.77 in H1650 cells for the T→G sequence. The mean CI values for the G→T sequence were 1.29 in Hcc827, 1.16 in PC-9, 1.52 in PC-9/GR, and 1.5 in H1650 cells. The mean CI values for T+G concomitant treatment were 0.88 in Hcc827, 0.91 in PC-9, 1.05 in PC-9/GR, and 1.18 in H1650 cells. Paclitaxel produced a dose-dependent increase in EGFR phosphorylation. Paclitaxel significantly increased EGFR phosphorylation compared with that in untreated controls (mean differences: +50% in Hcc827, + 56% in PC-9, + 39% in PC-9/GR, and + 69% in H1650 cells; p < 0.05). The T→G sequence produced significantly greater inhibition of EGFR phosphorylation compared with the opposite sequence (mean differences: -58% in Hcc827, -38% in PC-9, -35% in PC-9/GR, and -30% in H1650 cells; p < 0.05). Addition of a neutralizing anti-TGFα antibody abolished paclitaxel-induced activation of the EGFR pathway in PC-9 and H1650 cells. Sequence-dependent TGFα expression and release are responsible for the sequence-dependent EGFR pathway modulation.


The data suggest that the sequence of paclitaxel followed by gefitinib is an appropriate treatment combination for NSCLC cell lines harboring EGFR mutations. Our results provide molecular evidence to support clinical treatment strategies for patients with lung cancer.

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