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Mol Oncol. 2013 Dec;7(6):1093-102. doi: 10.1016/j.molonc.2013.08.001. Epub 2013 Aug 20.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition leads to crizotinib resistance in H2228 lung cancer cells with EML4-ALK translocation.

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Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Asan Medical Center, College of Medicine, University of Ulsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is associated with reduced sensitivity to many chemotherapeutic drugs, including EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Here, we investigated if this reduced sensitivity also contributes to resistance to crizotinib, an ALK inhibitor of lung cancer that exhibits the EML4-ALK translocation. We established a crizotinib-resistant subline (H2228/CR), which was derived from the parental H2228 cell line by long-term exposure to increasing concentrations of crizotinib. Characteristics associated with EMT, including morphology, EMT marker proteins, and cellular mobility, were analyzed. Compared with H2228 cells, the growth of H2228/CR cells was independent of EML4-ALK, and H2228/CR cells showed cross-resistance to TAE-684 (a second-generation ALK inhibitor). Phenotypic changes to the spindle-cell shape were noted in H2228/CR cells, which were accompanied by a decrease in E-cadherin and increase in vimentin and AXL. In addition, H2228/CR cells showed increased secretion and expression of TGF-β1. Invasion and migration capabilities were dramatically increased in H2228/CR cells. Applying TGF-β1 treatment to parental H2228 cells for 72 h induced reversible EMT, leading to crizotinib resistance, but this was reversed by the removal of TGF-β1. Suppression of vimentin in H2228/CR cells by siRNA treatment restored sensitivity to crizotinib. Furthermore, these resistant cells remained highly sensitive to the Hsp90 inhibitors, similar to the parental H2228 cells. In conclusion, we suggest EMT is possibly involved in acquired resistance to crizotinib, and that HSP90 inhibitors could be a promising option for the treatment of EMT.


ALK; Epithelial–mesenchymal transition; Lung cancer; Resistance

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