Research Papers:

Polo-like kinase 1 inhibition diminishes acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor inhibition in non-small cell lung cancer with T790M mutations

Yuehong Wang, Ratnakar Singh, Liguang Wang, Monique Nilsson, Ruchitha Goonatilake, Pan Tong, Lerong Li, Uma Giri, Pamela Villalobos, Barbara Mino, Jaime Rodriguez-Canales, Ignacio Wistuba, Jing Wang, John V. Heymach and Faye M. Johnson _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:47998-48010. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10332

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Yuehong Wang1,*, Ratnakar Singh2,*, Liguang Wang3, Monique Nilsson2, Ruchitha Goonatilake2, Pan Tong4, Lerong Li4, Uma Giri2, Pamela Villalobos5, Barbara Mino5, Jaime Rodriguez-Canales5, Ignacio Wistuba2,5,6, Jing Wang4,6, John V. Heymach2,6, Faye M. Johnson2,6

1Department of Respiratory Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

2Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

3Institute of Oncology, Provincial Hospital Affiliated to Shandong University, Shandong University, Jinan, China

4Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

5Department of Translational Molecular Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

6The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, Texas, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Faye M. Johnson, email: [email protected]

Keywords: polo-like kinase, epidermal growth factor receptor, drug resistance, non-small cell lung cancer, epithelial–mesenchymal transition

Received: March 03, 2016     Accepted: June 07, 2016     Published: June 30, 2016


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective against non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with activating EGFR mutations, but resistance is inevitable. Mechanisms of acquired resistance include T790M mutations and epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). One potential strategy for overcoming this resistance is the inhibition of polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) based on our previous studies showing that mesenchymal NSCLC cell lines are more sensitive to PLK1 inhibition than epithelial cell lines. To determine the extent to which PLK1 inhibition overcomes EGFR TKI resistance we measured the effects of the PLK1 inhibitor volasertib alone and in combination with the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib in vitro and in vivo in EGFR mutant NSCLC cell lines with acquired resistance to erlotinib. Two erlotinib-resistant cell lines that underwent EMT had higher sensitivity to volasertib, which caused G2/M arrest and apoptosis, than their parental cells. In all NSCLC cell lines with T790M mutations, volasertib markedly reduced erlotinib resistance. All erlotinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines with T790M mutations had higher sensitivity to erlotinib plus volasertib than to erlotinib alone, and the combination treatment caused G2/M arrest and apoptosis. Compared with either agent alone, the combination treatment also caused significantly more DNA damage and greater reductions in tumor size. Our results suggest that PLK1 inhibition is clinically effective against NSCLC that becomes resistant to EGFR inhibition through EMT or the acquisition of a T790M mutation. These results uncover new functions of PLK1 inhibition in the treatment of NSCLC with acquired resistance to EGFR TKIs.

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