Lucia Regales, Yixuan Gong, Ronglai Shen, Elisa de Stanchina, Igor Vivanco, Aviva Goel, Jason A. Koutcher, Maria Spassova, Ouathek Ouerfelli, Ingo K. Mellinghoff, Maureen F. Zakowski, Katerina A. Politi, William Pao
EGFR is a major anticancer drug target in human epithelial tumors. One effective class of agents is the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as gefitinib and erlotinib. These drugs induce dramatic responses in individuals with lung adenocarcinomas characterized by mutations in exons encoding the EGFR tyrosine kinase domain, but disease progression invariably occurs. A major reason for such acquired resistance is the outgrowth of tumor cells with additional TKI-resistant EGFR mutations. Here we used relevant transgenic mouse lung tumor models to evaluate strategies to overcome the most common EGFR TKI resistance mutation, T790M. We treated mice bearing tumors harboring EGFR mutations with a variety of anticancer agents, including a new irreversible EGFR TKI that is under development (BIBW-2992) and the EGFR-specific antibody cetuximab. Surprisingly, we found that only the combination of both agents together induced dramatic shrinkage of erlotinib-resistant tumors harboring the T790M mutation, because together they efficiently depleted both phosphorylated and total EGFR. We suggest that these studies have immediate therapeutic implications for lung cancer patients, as dual targeting with cetuximab and a second-generation EGFR TKI may be an effective strategy to overcome T790M-mediated drug resistance. Moreover, this approach could serve as an important model for targeting other receptor tyrosine kinases activated in human cancers.