Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) have poor efficacy in head and neck squamous carcinoma cells (HNSCC). Because the IGF-1 receptor (IGF1R) generates potent prosurvival signals and has been implicated in therapeutic resistance, its ability to induce resistance to EGFR-TKIs was studied in vitro. Five HNSCC cell lines showed reduced sensitivity to the EGFR-TKI gefitinib when the IGF1R was activated. In SCC-25 and Cal27 cells, gefitinib inhibited basal and EGF-stimulated EGFR, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk), and Akt phosphorylation and reduced cell number. This correlated with initiation of apoptosis based on a 4-fold increase in PARP cleavage and a 2.5-fold increase in Annexin V positivity. The apoptotic response and reduction in cell number were blocked by IGF1R activation, which resulted in phosphorylation of both Erk and Akt. In both the cell lines, IGF1R-induced Erk, but not Akt, activation was eliminated by gefitinib. IGF1R-induced gefitinib resistance was unaffected by MAP/Erk kinase inhibition with U0126 but was partially impaired by inhibition of phosphoinositide-3-kinase with LY294002. The IGF1R-TKI PQ401 inhibited growth of SCC-25 and Cal27 cells alone and also acted synergistically with gefitinib. Thus, the IGF1R can make HNSCC cells resistant to EGFR-TKI treatment via a prosurvival mechanism. Of the 8 HNSCC tumor samples studied, all samples expressed the IGF1R and 5 showed detectable IGF1R phosphorylation, suggesting that this receptor may be relevant in vivo, and thus, combined EGFR/IGF1R inhibition may be necessary in some patients for effective targeted molecular therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research