Research Papers:

Broad-spectrum receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors overcome de novo and acquired modes of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies in colorectal cancer

Ramona Graves-Deal _, Galina Bogatcheva, Saba Rehman, Yuanyuan Lu, James N. Higginbotham and Bhuminder Singh

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Oncotarget. 2019; 10:1320-1333. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26663

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Ramona Graves-Deal1,2,*, Galina Bogatcheva1,2,*, Saba Rehman1,2, Yuanyuan Lu1,2, James N. Higginbotham1,2 and Bhuminder Singh1,2

1Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA

2Epithelial Biology Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Bhuminder Singh, email: [email protected]

Keywords: cetuximab resistance; colorectal cancer; EGFR; RTK inhibition; MET

Received: December 06, 2018     Accepted: January 28, 2019     Published: February 12, 2019


It is increasingly appreciated that 3D cultures are more predictive of in vivo therapeutic efficacy than 2D cultures. Using in vitro 3D type I collagen cultures of human colorectal cancer (CRC) cell line HCA-7 derivatives CC, SC, and CC-CR, we previously identified that activation of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) MET and RON contributed to resistance to the EGF receptor (EGFR)-directed therapeutic antibody cetuximab. The de novo mode of cetuximab resistance in SC cells could be overcome by crizotinib, a multi-RTK inhibitor that also targets MET and RON. We now show that crizotinib also overcomes acquired cetuximab resistance in CC-CR cells. Phospho-RTK array analysis showed increased phosphorylation of several RTKs, including MET and RON, in SC and CC-CR cells compared to cetuximab-sensitive CC counterparts. Furthermore, other multi-RTK inhibitors cabozantinib and BMS-777607 helped overcome cetuximab resistance, as measured by 3D colony growth and activation state of key signaling molecules. Conversely, addition of RTK ligands HGF and NRG1 induced cetuximab resistance in CC cells, which could be blocked by addition of crizotinib. We further determined the mechanism of the cooperative effect of cetuximab and crizotinib by FACS analysis and observed increased cell cycle arrest in G1 phase in cetuximab-resistant CRC 3D cultures. Finally, we show that crizotinib overcomes cetuximab resistance in vivo in SC nude mice xenografts. Thus, our work shows that multi-RTK inhibition strategy is a potent, broadly applicable strategy to overcome resistance to EGFR-targeted therapeutics in CRC and highlights the relevance of 3D cultures in these studies.

Statement of implication: Using in vitro 3D CRC cultures and in vivo CRC xenografts, we show that parallel inhibition of multiple RTKs with small molecule inhibitors overcomes de novo and acquired resistance to EGFR-directed therapies in CRC.

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