Mechanisms of resistance to EGFR inhibition reveal metabolic vulnerabilities in human GBM

Andrew McKinney, Olle R. Lindberg, Jane R. Engler, Katharine Y. Chen, Anupam Kumar, Henry Gong, Kan V. Lu, Erin F. Simonds, Timothy F. Cloughesy, Linda M. Liau, Michael Prados, Andrew W. Bollen, Mitchel S. Berger, Joseph T.C. Shieh, C. David James, Theodore P. Nicolaides, William H. Yong, Albert Lai, Monika E. Hegi, William A. WeissJoanna J. Phillips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Amplification of the epidermal growth factor receptor gene (EGFR) represents one of the most commonly observed genetic lesions in glioblastoma (GBM); however, therapies targeting this signaling pathway have failed clinically. Here, using human tumors, primary patient-derived xenografts (PDX), and a murine model for GBM, we demonstrate that EGFR inhibition leads to increased invasion of tumor cells. Further, EGFR inhibitor–treated GBM demonstrates altered oxidative stress, with increased lipid peroxidation, and generation of toxic lipid peroxidation products. A tumor cell subpopulation with elevated aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) levels was determined to comprise a significant proportion of the invasive cells observed in EGFR inhibitor–treated GBM. Our analysis of the ALDH1A1 protein in newly diagnosed GBM revealed detectable ALDH1A1 expression in 69% (35/51) of the cases, but in relatively low percentages of tumor cells. Analysis of paired human GBM before and after EGFR inhibitor therapy showed an increase in ALDH1A1 expression in EGFR-amplified tumors (P < 0.05, n ¼ 13 tumor pairs), and in murine GBM ALDH1A1-high clones were more resistant to EGFR inhibition than ALDH1A1-low clones. Our data identify ALDH levels as a biomarker of GBM cells with high invasive potential, altered oxidative stress, and resistance to EGFR inhibition, and reveal a therapeutic target whose inhibition should limit GBM invasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1565-1576
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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