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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Aug 24;425(2):328-32. Epub 2012 Jul 25.

BDNF/TrkB signaling protects HT-29 human colon cancer cells from EGFR inhibition.

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Cancer Research Laboratory, University Hospital Research Center (CPE-HCPA), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, 90035-003 Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.


The clinical success of targeted treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC) is often limited by resistance to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) therapy. The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB have recently emerged as anticancer targets, and we have previously shown increased BDNF levels in CRC tumor samples. Here we report the findings from in vitro experiments suggesting that BDNF/TrkB signaling can protect CRC cells from the antitumor effects of EGFR blockade. The anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab reduced both cell proliferation and the mRNA expression of BDNF and TrkB in human HT-29 CRC cells. The inhibitory effect of cetuximab on cell proliferation and survival was counteracted by the addition of human recombinant BDNF. Finally, the Trk inhibitor K252a synergistically enhanced the effect of cetuximab on cell proliferation, and this effect was blocked by BDNF. These results provide the first evidence that increased BDNF/TrkB signaling might play a role in resistance to EGFR blockade. Moreover, it is possible that targeting TrkB could potentiate the anticancer effects of anti-EGFR therapy.

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