Object. Activation of signaling by the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) through gene amplification or rearrangement is common in human malignancy, especially in a large fraction of de novo glioblastomas multiforme (GBMs). The most common mutant EGFR, (ΔEGFR, also known as de2–7 EGFR and EGFRvIII) lacks a portion of the extracellular domain, enhances tumorigenicity in vivo, and causes resistance to the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin (CDDP). This resistance is due to the suppression of CDDP-induced apoptosis by the constitutively active tyrosine kinase activity of the receptor. The authors have investigated whether inhibition of AEGFR signaling by the tyrosine kinase inhibitor, tyrphostin AG1478, could sensitize tumor xenografts to CDDP and, thereby, enhance its therapeutic efficacy in animals.
Methods. Nude mice were inoculated either subcutaneously or intracerebrally with human GBM cells expressing ΔEGFR and were then systemically treated with CDDP and/or AG1478. Tumor volumes were monitored and tumor sections were analyzed by using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assays or MIB-1 staining.
Expression of ΔEGFR, but not wild-type EGFR, conferred CDDP resistance to the cells in vivo. Inhibition of receptor signaling by the EGFR-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor, AG1478, sensitized the xenografts to the cytotoxic effects of CDDP. This combined CDDP/AG1478 treatment significantly suppressed growth of subcutaneous xenografts in nude mice in a synergistic manner (p < 0.01 compared with vehicle control) without causing generalized toxicity, whereas treatments with CDDP or AG1478 alone were ineffective. The synergistic growth suppression by the CDDP/AG1478 combination was not observed in xenografts overexpressing wild-type EGFR or kinase-deficient ΔEGFR. The combined CDDP/AG1478 treatment induced tumor growth suppression, which correlated with increased apoptosis and reduced proliferation. This treatment also extended the life span of mice bearing intracerebral xenografts (p < 0.01 compared with controls).
Conclusions. The results of this study may provide the basis for the development of a novel and safe therapeutic strategy for the very aggressive ΔEGFR-expressing GBM.