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J Biol Chem. 2011 Apr 1;286(13):11337-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.223503. Epub 2011 Jan 31.

Time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) to analyze the disruption of EGFR/HER2 dimers: a new method to evaluate the efficiency of targeted therapy using monoclonal antibodies.

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IRCM, Institut de Recherche en Cancérologie de Montpellier, INSERM, U896, Université Montpellier1, CRLC Val d'Aurelle Paul Lamarque, Montpellier, France.


In oncology, simultaneous inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and HER2 by monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is an efficient therapeutic strategy but the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Here, we describe a time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) method to quantify EGFR/HER2 heterodimers on cell surface to shed some light on the mechanism of such therapies. First, we tested this antibody-based TR-FRET assay in NIH/3T3 cell lines that express EGFR and/or HER2 and in various tumor cell lines. Then, we used the antibody-based TR-FRET assay to evaluate in vitro the effect of different targeted therapies on EGFR/HER2 heterodimers in the ovarian carcinoma cell line SKOV-3. A simultaneous incubation with Cetuximab (anti-EGFR) and Trastuzumab (anti-HER2) disturbed EGFR/HER2 heterodimers resulting in a 72% reduction. Cetuximab, Trastuzumab or Pertuzumab (anti-HER2) alone induced a 48, 44, or 24% reduction, respectively. In contrast, the tyrosine kinase inhibitors Erlotinib and Lapatinib had very little effect on EGFR/HER2 dimers concentration. In vivo, the combination of Cetuximab and Trastuzumab showed a better therapeutic effect (median survival and percentage of tumor-free mice) than the single mAbs. These results suggest a correlation between the extent of the mAb-induced EGFR/HER2 heterodimer reduction and the efficacy of such mAbs in targeted therapies. In conclusion, quantifying EGFR/HER2 heterodimers using our antibody-based TR-FRET assay may represent a useful method to predict the efficacy and explain the mechanisms of action of therapeutic mAbs, in addition to other commonly used techniques that focus on antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, phosphorylation, and cell proliferation.

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