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Cancer Biol Ther. 2011 Sep 1;12(5):436-46. Epub 2011 Sep 1.

Erlotinib is a viable treatment for tumors with acquired resistance to cetuximab.

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1
Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI USA.

Abstract

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a ubiquitously expressed receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) and is recognized as a key mediator of tumorigenesis in many human tumors. Currently there are five EGFR inhibitors used in oncology, two monoclonal antibodies (panitumumab, and cetuximab) and three tyrosine kinase inhibitors (erlotinib, gefitinib, and lapatinib). Both strategies of EGFR inhibition have demonstrated clinical successes, however many tumors remain non-responsive or acquire resistance during therapy. To explore potential molecular mechanisms of acquired resistance to cetuximab we previously established a series of cetuximab-resistant clones by chronically exposing the NCI-H226 NSCLC cell line to escalating doses of cetuximab. Cetuximab-resistant clones exhibited a dramatic increase in steady-state expression of EGFR, HER2, and HER3 receptors as well as increased signaling through the MAPK and AKT pathways. RNAi studies demonstrated dependence of cetuximab-resistant clones on the EGFR signaling network. These findings prompted investigation on whether or not cells with acquired resistance to cetuximab would be sensitive to the EGFR targeted TKI erlotinib. In vitro, erlotinib was able to decrease signaling through the EGFR axis, decrease cellular proliferation, and induce apoptosis. To determine if erlotinib could have therapeutic benefit in vivo, we established cetuximab-resistant NCI-H226 mouse xenografts, and subsequently treated them with erlotinib. Mice harboring cetuximab-resistant tumors treated with erlotinib exhibited either a tumor regression or growth delay as compared to vehicle controls. Analysis of the erlotinib treated tumors demonstrated a decrease in cell proliferation and increase rates of apoptosis. The work presented herein suggests that 1) cells with acquired resistance to cetuximab maintain their dependence on EGFR and 2) tumors developing resistance to cetuximab can benefit from subsequent treatment with erlotinib, providing rationale for its use in the setting of cetuximab resistance.

PMID:
21725209
PMCID:
PMC3219082
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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