PloS one

Loss of activating EGFR mutant gene contributes to acquired resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer cells.

PMID 22815900


Non-small-cell lung cancer harboring epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations attains a meaningful response to EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). However, acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs could affect long-term outcome in almost all patients. To identify the potential mechanisms of resistance, we established cell lines resistant to EGFR-TKIs from the human lung cancer cell lines PC9 and11-18, which harbored activating EGFR mutations. One erlotinib-resistant cell line from PC9 and two erlotinib-resistant cell lines and two gefitinib-resistant cell lines from 11-18 were independently established. Almost complete loss of mutant delE746-A750 EGFR gene was observed in the erlotinib-resistant cells isolated from PC9, and partial loss of the mutant L858R EGFR gene copy was specifically observed in the erlotinib- and gefitinib-resistant cells from 11-18. However, constitutive activation of EGFR downstream signaling, PI3K/Akt, was observed even after loss of the mutated EGFR gene in all resistant cell lines even in the presence of the drug. In the erlotinib-resistant cells from PC9, constitutive PI3K/Akt activation was effectively inhibited by lapatinib (a dual TKI of EGFR and HER2) or BIBW2992 (pan-TKI of EGFR family proteins). Furthermore, erlotinib with either HER2 or HER3 knockdown by their cognate siRNAs also inhibited PI3K/Akt activation. Transfection of activating mutant EGFR complementary DNA restored drug sensitivity in the erlotinib-resistant cell line. Our study indicates that loss of addiction to mutant EGFR resulted in gain of addiction to both HER2/HER3 and PI3K/Akt signaling to acquire EGFR-TKI resistance.