Cancer research

Erlotinib Pretreatment Improves Photodynamic Therapy of Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma Xenografts via Multiple Mechanisms.

PMID 26054596


Aberrant expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a common characteristic of many cancers, including non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and ovarian cancer. Although EGFR is currently a favorite molecular target for the treatment of these cancers, inhibition of the receptor with small-molecule inhibitors (i.e., erlotinib) or monoclonal antibodies (i.e., cetuximab) does not provide long-term therapeutic benefit as standalone treatment. Interestingly, we have found that addition of erlotinib to photodynamic therapy (PDT) can improve treatment response in typically erlotinib-resistant NSCLC tumor xenografts. Ninety-day complete response rates of 63% are achieved when erlotinib is administered in three doses before PDT of H460 human tumor xenografts, compared with 16% after PDT-alone. Similar benefit is found when erlotinib is added to PDT of A549 NCSLC xenografts. Improved response is accompanied by increased vascular shutdown, and erlotinib increases the in vitro cytotoxicity of PDT to endothelial cells. Tumor uptake of the photosensitizer (benzoporphyrin derivative monoacid ring A; BPD) is increased by the in vivo administration of erlotinib; nevertheless, this elevation of BPD levels only partially accounts for the benefit of erlotinib to PDT. Thus, pretreatment with erlotinib augments multiple mechanisms of PDT effect that collectively lead to large improvements in therapeutic efficacy. These data demonstrate that short-duration administration of erlotinib before PDT can greatly improve the responsiveness of even erlotinib-resistant tumors to treatment. Results will inform clinical investigation of EGFR-targeting therapeutics in conjunction with PDT.