[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent genomic evidence suggests frequent phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway activation in human papillomavirus (HPV) positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Mutations/amplification of the gene encoding p110alpha catalytic subunit of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PIK3CA), loss of phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) and HRAS mutations are known to activate PI3K pathway.Methods and results: PIK3CA mutations were identified by Sanger sequencing in 23 of 75 (31%) HPV-positive oropharyngeal carcinomas, including exon 9 (p.E545K [n = 10] and p.E542K [n = 5]) or exon 20 (p.H1047Y, n = 2) mutations. Five rare and one novel (p.R537Q) PIK3CA mutations were identified. HRAS mutation (p.Q61L) was detected in 1 of 62 tested cases. PIK3CA amplification by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was identified in 4 cases (4/21, 20%), while PTEN loss was seen in 7 (7/21, 33%) cases (chromosome 10 monosomy [n = 4], homozygous deletion [n = 3]).
Overall, genetic alterations that likely lead to PI3K pathway activation were identified in 34 of 75 cases (45%) and did not correlate with disease specific survival. These findings offer a molecular rationale for therapeutic targeting of PI3K pathway in patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal carcinoma.
BMC Cancer 12/2013; 13(1):602. · 3.33 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: More than half of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients are initially treated with curative intent, but will relapse over the course of their disease and have poor prognosis with a median survival of approximately 6months. Novel therapeutic approaches are in desperate need for this patient population. The anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family proteins such as BCL-2, BCL-XL, and MCL-1 are involved in oncogenesis and chemoresistance and are overexpressed in HNSCC. Obatoclax is a small-molecule antagonist of the BH3-binding groove of anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family. We evaluated the activity of obatoclax against 4 HNSCC cell lines (UMSCC-1, Cal33, 1483, UMSCC-22A).
Cell viability was determined by MTT assay, cell cycle status by propidium iodide staining, and apoptosis by Annexin-V staining and immunoblotting. Autophagy was assessed by immunofluorescence and immunoblotting.
All four HNSCC cell lines were highly sensitive to single-agent obatoclax with IC50's ranging from 46 to 177nM. Obatoclax induced apoptosis in all four HNSCC cell lines as evidenced by increases in sub-G1 DNA content, Annexin-V staining, and PARP cleavage. In addition, obatoclax induced autophagy in all 4 cell lines, and the addition of the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine enhanced obatoclax cytotoxicity.
Our findings demonstrate potent monotherapeutic activity of obatoclax against HNSCC cells, and enhancement of this activity in the presence of chloroquine. This preclinical study suggests that obatoclax might have therapeutic value in the treatment of HNSCC, either alone or in combination with inhibitors of autophagy.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abstract The oncogenic transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is hyperactivated in most cancers and represents a plausible therapeutic target. In the absence of STAT3-selective small-molecule inhibitors, we sought to develop pSTAT3/1 high-content imaging (HCS) assays to screen for selective inhibitors of STAT3 pathway activation in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) tumor cell lines. Based on the expression of the interleukin-6 (IL-6)Rα and gp130 subunits of the IL-6 receptor complex and STAT3, we selected the Cal33 HNSCC cell line as our model. After developing image acquisition and analysis procedures, we rigorously investigated the cytokine activation responses to optimize the dynamic ranges of both assays and demonstrated that the pan-Janus kinase inhibitor pyridone 6 nonselectively inhibited pSTAT3 and pSTAT1 activation with 50% inhibition concentrations of 7.19±4.08 and 16.38±8.45 nM, respectively. The optimized pSTAT3 HCS assay performed very well in a pilot screen of 1,726 compounds from the Library of Pharmacologically Active Compounds and the National Institutes of Health clinical collection sets, and we identified 51 inhibitors of IL-6-induced pSTAT3 activation. However, only three of the primary HCS actives selectively inhibited STAT3 compared with STAT1. Our follow-up studies indicated that the nonselective inhibition of cytokine induced pSTAT3 and pSTAT1 activation by G-alpha stimulatory subunit-coupled G-protein-coupled receptor agonists, and forskolin was likely due to cyclic adenosine monophosphate-mediated up-regulation of suppressors of cytokine signaling 3. Azelastine, an H1 receptor antagonist approved for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis, nonallergic vasomotor rhinitis, and ocular conjunctivitis, was subsequently confirmed as a selective inhibitor of IL-6-induced pSTAT3 activation that also reduced the growth of HNSCC cell lines. These data illustrate the power of a chemical biology approach to lead generation that utilizes fully developed and optimized HCS assays as phenotypic screens to interrogate specific signaling pathways.
Assay and Drug Development Technologies 10/2013; · 1.90 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is current interest in anti-angiogenesis therapies for head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), although the utility of these therapies in human papillomavirus (HPV) positive and HPV-negative HNSCC is unclear. Therefore, we explored heterogeneity in expression of a distal factor in angiogenesis (EGFR, the epidermal growth factor receptor), a proximal factor in angiogenesis (VEGF, the vascular endothelial growth factor) and a putative factor in angiogenesis (NOTCH1) in a HNSCC case series using immunohistochemistry in N = 67 cases (27 HPV-positive, 40 HPV-negative, by in situ hybridization). Box plots and the Wilcoxon rank sum or Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare staining scores (intensity × percent of cells staining) by HPV status and lifestyle factors. Associations between EGFR, VEGF, and NOTCH1 were assessed using box plots and Spearman correlation (ρ) in all cases, and stratified by HPV status. HPV-negative HNSCC over-expressed EGFR [median (range): 30 (0-300)] relative to HPV-positive HNSCC [7.5 (0-200)] (P = 0.006). VEGF and NOTCH1 were unrelated to HPV status (P > 0.05). EGFR was associated with VEGF in HPV-negative (ρ = 0.40, P = 0.01) but not HPV-positive HNSCC (ρ = 0.25, P = 0.20). NOTCH1 and VEGF were associated in HPV-negative (ρ = 0.40, P = 0.01) but not HPV-positive tumors (ρ = -0.12, P = 0.57). NOTCH1 was not associated with EGFR (P > 0.05). Our results are suggestive of heterogeneity in HNSCC angiogenesis. Future studies should explore angiogenesis mechanisms in HPV-positive and HPV-negative HNSCC.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genomic findings underscore the heterogeneity of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)1,2. Identification of mutations that predict therapeutic response would be a major advance. We determined the mutationally altered, targetable mitogenic pathways in a large HNSCC cohort. Analysis of whole-exome sequencing data from 151 tumors revealed the PI3K pathway to be the most frequently mutated oncogenic pathway (30.5%). PI3K pathway-mutated HNSCC tumors harbored a significantly higher rate of mutations in known cancer genes. In a subset of HPV-positive tumors, PIK3CA or PIK3R1 was the only mutated cancer gene. Strikingly, all tumors with concurrent mutation of multiple PI3K pathway genes were advanced (stage IV), implicating concerted PI3K pathway aberrations in HNSCC progression. Patient-derived tumorgrafts with canonical and non-canonical PIK3CA mutations were sensitive to an m-TOR/PI3K inhibitor (BEZ-235) in contrast to PIK3CA wildtype tumorgrafts. These results suggest that PI3K pathway mutations may serve as predictive biomarkers for treatment selection.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction: Passive smoke is carcinogenic but its association with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is uncertain. Methods: We conducted a case-control study of childhood passive smoke exposure (CPSE) and HNSCC in 858 cases and 806 frequency-matched controls using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated with logistic regression controlling for adult smoking in the total study population, and in never-smokers only (184 cases and 415 controls). CPSE was also studied in oropharyngeal separately from other HNSCC using polytomous logistic regression. Results: CPSE was associated with HNSCC (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.01-1.63) after controlling for adult smoking and other factors. This association was similar in magnitude, although not statistically significant, among subjects who never smoked as adults (OR, 1.19, 95% CI, 0.80-1.76). CPSE was associated more strongly with oropharyngeal cancer (a HNSCC subtype commonly associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection) than with HNSCC at non-oropharyngeal sites (OR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.01-4.06, N=52 cases vs. OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.68-1.60, N=132 cases; P-for-heterogeneity=0.08). Conclusions: Data from this large US-based case control study suggest a role for CPSE in HNSCC etiology.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction: Functional polymorphisms in drug metabolizing enzymes (DMEs) may be determinants of survival in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OOSCC). Methods: OOSCC cases (N=159) with a history of either tobacco or alcohol use were genotyped for polymorphisms in eight DMEs. Overall and disease-specific survival were analyzed using Kaplan-Meier plots and the log-rank test. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) in exploratory analyses of patient subgroups. Results: Kaplan-Meier analyses showed N-acteyltransferase-2 (NAT2) fast acetylators experienced a 19.7% higher 5-year survival rate than slow acetylators (P=0.03) and this association was similar in oropharyngeal and oral cancer. After multiple adjustment, including tumor site and stage, the NAT2 fast acetylator phenotype was associated with improved overall survival (vs. slow acetylators) provided chemotherapy or radiation were not used (HR, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.10-0.66). However, NAT2 phenotype was unrelated to survival in patients treated with chemoradiotherapy (HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.54-2.73) or radiotherapy (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.31-1.59) (P-for-NAT2/treatment-interaction=0.04). Normal activity GSTP1 was associated with a 19.2% reduction in 5-year disease-specific survival relative to reduced activity GSTP1 (P=0.04) but this association was not modified by treatment. Conclusions: Our results suggest that functional polymorphisms in NAT2 and GSTP1 are associated with OOSCC survival. Confirmation of these results in larger studies is required.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fanconi anemia (FA) is a rare inherited recessive disease caused by mutations in one of fifteen genes known to encode FA pathway components. In response to DNA damage, nuclear FA proteins associate into high molecular weight complexes through a cascade of post-translational modifications and physical interactions, followed by the repair of damaged DNA. Hematopoietic cells are particularly sensitive to the loss of these interactions, and bone marrow failure occurs almost universally in FA patients. FA as a disease is further characterized by cancer susceptibility, which highlights the importance of the FA pathway in tumor suppression, and will be the focus of this review. Acute myeloid leukemia is the most common cancer type, often subsequent to bone marrow failure. However, FA patients are also at an extreme risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the head and neck and gynecological tract, with an even greater incidence in those individuals who have received a bone marrow transplant and recovered from hematopoietic disease. FA tumor suppression in hematopoietic versus epithelial compartments could be mechanistically similar or distinct. Definition of compartment specific FA activities is now critical to assess the effects of today's bone marrow failure treatments on tomorrow's solid tumor development. It is our hope that current therapies can then be optimized to decrease the risk of malignant transformation in both hematopoietic and epithelial cells. Here we review our current understanding of the mechanisms of action of the Fanconi anemia pathway as it contributes to stress responses, DNA repair and squamous cell carcinoma susceptibility.
Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis 01/2013; · 3.90 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Noninvasive imaging methodologies are needed to assess treatment responses to novel molecular targeting approaches for the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging do not effectively distinguish tumors from fibrotic tissue commonly associated with SCCHN tumors. Positron emission tomography (PET) offers functional non-invasive imaging of tumors. We determined the uptake of the PET tracers 2-deoxy-2-[(18)F]fluoro-D-glucose ([(18)F]FDG) and 3'-[(18)F]Fluoro-3'-deoxythymidine ([(18)F]FLT) in several SCCHN xenograft models. In addition, we evaluated the utility of [(18)F]FLT microPET imaging in monitoring treatment response to an EGFR antisense approach targeted therapy that has shown safety and efficacy in a phase I trial. Two of the 3 SCCHN xenograft models tested demonstrated no appreciable uptake or retention of [(18)F]FDG, but consistent accumulation of [(18)F]FLT. The third tumor xenograft SCCHN model (Cal33) demonstrated variable uptake of both tracers. SCCHN xenografts (1483) treated with EGFR antisense gene therapy decreased tumor volumes in 4/6 mice. Reduced uptake of [(18)F]FLT was observed in tumors that responded to epidermal growth factor antisense (EGFRAS) gene therapy compared to non-responding tumors or tumors treated with control sense plasmid DNA. These findings indicate that [(18)F]FLT PET imaging may be useful in monitoring SCCHN response to molecular targeted therapies, while [(18)F]FDG uptake in SCCHN xenografts may not be reflective of the level of metabolic activity characteristic of human SCCHN tumors.
American journal of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. 01/2013; 3(1):16-31.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) family of proteins was originally discovered in the context of normal cell biology where they function to transduce intracellular and extracellular signals to the nucleus, ultimately leading to transcription of specific target genes and downstream phenotypic effects. It was quickly appreciated that the STATs, especially STAT3, play a fundamental role in human malignancy. In contrast to normal biology in which transient STAT3 signaling is strictly regulated by a tightly coordinated network of activators and deactivators, STAT3 is constitutively activated in human malignancies. Constitutive STAT3 signaling has been associated with many cancerous phenotypes across nearly all human cancers, including the upregulation of cell growth, proliferation, survival, and motility, among others. Studies involving candidate preclinical STAT3 inhibitors have further demonstrated that the reversal of these phenotypes results from pharmacologic or genetic inhibition of STAT3, suggesting that STAT3 may be a promising target for clinical interventions. Indeed, a Phase 0 clinical trial involving a STAT3 decoy oligonucleotide demonstrated that STAT3 is a drug-gable target in human tumors. Because of the ubiquity of overactive STAT3 in cancer, its role in promoting a wide variety of cancerous phenotypes, and the strong clinical and preclinical studies performed to date, STAT3 represents a promising target for the development of inhibitors for the treatment of human cancers.
OncoTargets and Therapy 01/2013; 6:999-1010. · 2.07 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: PURPOSE: Strategies to inhibit the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) using the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) erlotinib have been associated with limited clinical efficacy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Co-activation of alternative kinases may contribute to erlotinib resistance. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We generated HNSCC cells expressing dominant-active c-Src (DA-Src) to determine the contribution of c-Src activation to erlotinib response. RESULTS: Expression of DA-Src conferred resistance to erlotinib in vitro and in vivo compared with vector-transfected control cells (VC). Phospho-Met was strongly upregulated by DA-Src, and DA-Src cells did not produce hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Knockdown of c-Met enhanced sensitivity to erlotinib in DA-Src cells in vitro, as did combining a c-Met or c-Src inhibitor with erlotinib. Inhibiting EGFR resulted in minimal reduction of phospho-Met in DA-Src cells, whereas complete phospho-Met inhibition was achieved by inhibiting c-Src. A c-Met inhibitor significantly sensitized DA-Src tumors to erlotinib in vivo, resulting in reduced Ki67 labeling and increased apoptosis. In parental cells, knockdown of endogenous c-Src enhanced sensitivity to erlotinib, while treatment with HGF to directly induce phospho-Met resulted in erlotinib resistance. The level of endogenous phospho-c-Src in HNSCC cell lines was also significantly correlated with erlotinib resistance. CONCLUSIONS: Ligand-independent activation of c-Met contributes specifically to erlotinib resistance, not cetuximab resistance, in HNSCC with activated c-Src, where c-Met activation is more dependent on c-Src than on EGFR, providing an alternate survival pathway. Addition of a c-Met or c-Src inhibitor to erlotinib may increase efficacy of EGFR inhibition in patients with activated c-Src.
Clinical Cancer Research 12/2012; · 7.84 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is characterized by overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) where treatments targeting EGFR have met with limited clinical success. Elucidation of the key downstream-pathways that remain activated in the setting of EGFR blockade may reveal new therapeutic targets. The present study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex would enhance the effects of EGFR blockade in HNSCC preclinical models. Treatment of HNSCC cell lines with the newly developed TORC1/TORC2 inhibitor OSI-027/ASP4876 resulted in dose-dependent inhibition of proliferation with abrogation of phosphorylation of known downstream targets including phospho-AKT (Ser473), phospho-4E-BP1, phospho-p70s6K, and phospho-PRAS40. Furthermore, combined treatment with OSI-027 and erlotinib resulted in enhanced biochemical effects and synergistic growth inhibition in vitro. Treatment of mice bearing HNSCC xenografts with a combination of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved EGFR inhibitor cetuximab and OSI-027 demonstrated a significant reduction of tumor volumes compared with either treatment alone. These findings suggest that TORC1/TORC2 inhibition in conjunction with EGFR blockade represents a plausible therapeutic strategy for HNSCC.
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 11/2012; 14(11):1005-14. · 5.48 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Peptide nucleic acids have emerged over the past two decades as a promising class of nucleic acid mimics because of their strong binding affinity and sequence selectivity towards DNA and RNA, and resistance to enzymatic degradation by prote-ases and nucleases. While they have been shown to be effective in regulation of gene expression in vitro, and to a small extent in vivo, their full potential for molecular therapy has not yet been fully realized due to poor cellular uptake. Herein we report the development of cell-permeable, guanidine-based peptide nucleic acids targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in preclinical models as therapeutic modality for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). A GPNA oligomer, 16 nucleotides in length, designed to bind to EGFR gene transcript elicited potent antisense effects in HNSCC and NSCLC cells in preclinical models. When administered intraperitoneally in mice, EGFRAS-GPNA was taken-up by several tissues including the xenograft tumor. Systemic administration of EGFRAS-GPNA induced antitumor effects in HNSCC xenografts, with similar efficacies as the FDA-approved EGFR inhibitors: cetuximab and erlotinib. In addition to targeting wild type EGFR, EGFRAS-GPNA is effective against the constitutively active EGFR vIII mutant implicated in cetuximab resistance. Our data reveals that GPNA is just as effective as a molecular platform for treating cetuximab resistant cells, demonstrating its utility in the treatment of cancer.
ACS Chemical Biology 10/2012; · 5.44 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Silencing of abnormally activated genes can be accomplished in a highly specific manner using nucleic acid based approaches. The focus of this review includes the different nucleic acid based inhibition strategies such as antisense oligodeoxynucleotides, small interfering RNA (siRNA), dominant-negative constructs, G-quartet oligonucleotides and decoy oligonucleotides, their mechanism of action and the effectiveness of these approaches to targeting the STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription) proteins in cancer. Among the STAT proteins, especially STAT3, followed by STAT5, are the most frequently activated oncogenic STATs, which have emerged as plausible therapeutic cancer targets. Both STAT3 and STAT5 have been shown to regulate numerous oncogenic signaling pathways including proliferation, survival, angiogenesis and migration/invasion.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The proteasome inhibitor bortezomib has shown remarkable clinical success in the treatment of multiple myeloma. However, the efficacy and mechanism of action of bortezomib in solid tumor malignancies is less well understood. In addition, the use of this first-in-class proteasome inhibitor is limited by several factors, including off-target effects that lead to adverse toxicities. We recently reported the impact and mechanisms of carfilzomib and oprozomib, second-in-class proteasome inhibitors with higher specificities and reduced toxicities, against head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Carfilzomib and oprozomib potently inhibit HNSCC cell survival and the growth of HNSCC tumors. Both compounds promote upregulation of proapoptotic BIK and antiapoptotic MCL1, which serves to mediate and attenuate, respectively, the killing activities of these proteasome inhibitors. Both compounds also induce complete autophagic flux that is partially dependent on activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and upregulation of ATF4. Carfilzomib- and oprozomib-induced autophagy acts to promote HNSCC cell survival. Our study indicates that the therapeutic benefit of these promising proteasome inhibitors may be improved by inhibiting MCL1 expression or autophagy.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling pathway is frequently dysregulated in a variety of human malignancies. As a result, agents have been developed to selectively inhibit the tyrosine kinase function of EGFR (EGFR-TKI) for cancer therapy. However, the clinical efficacy of these drugs to date has been limited by both acquired and intrinsic resistance. Macroautophagy, a process of intracellular proteolysis, has been shown to be activated in response to EGFR targeted therapy. However, the specific role of the induction of autophagy remains controversial. Here we show that autophagy is induced in a dose-dependent manner by in vitro treatment of multiple cancer cell lines with EGFR-TKI. Additionally, we find that in cells highly resistant to EGFR-TKI, autophagy is not robustly activated and that cotreatment of these cells with rapamycin, a known inducer of autophagy, can partially restore sensitivity to EGFR-TKI. Finally, we demonstrate that, in resistant cell lines, EGFR-TKI sensitivity can be further inhibited by siRNA-mediated depletion of the critical autophagy protein ATG7. Thus, our data suggests that defective autophagy may be an EGFR-TKI resistance mechanism and that activation of autophagy may be a viable strategy to augment the cytotoxic effect of EGFR-TKIs.
Cancer biology & therapy 09/2012; 13(14). · 3.29 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
We evaluated combined targeting with cetuximab, an anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody, and bevacizumab, an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) monoclonal antibody, in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN).Patients and methodsThe combination was studied in human endothelial cells and head and neck and lung cancer xenograft model systems. Patients with recurrent or metastatic SCCHN were treated with weekly cetuximab and bevacizumab, 15 mg/kg on day 1 given intravenously every 21 days, until disease progression. Analysis of tumor biomarkers and related serum cytokines was performed.ResultsCetuximab plus bevacizumab enhanced growth inhibition both in vitro and in vivo, and resulted in potent reduction in tumor vascularization. In the clinical trial, 46 eligible patients were enrolled. The objective response rate was 16% and the disease control rate 73%. The median progression-free survival and overall survival were 2.8 and 7.5 months, respectively. Grade 3-4 adverse events were expected and occurred in less than 10% of patients. transforming growth factor alpha, placenta-derived growth factor, EGFR, VEGFR2 increased and VEGF decreased after treatment but did not correlate with treatment efficacy.Conclusions
Cetuximab and bevacizumab are supported by preclinical observations and are well tolerated and active in previously treated patients with SCCHN.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is widely expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) and can activate many growth and survival pathways within tumor cells. Despite ubiquitous EGFR expression, therapies targeting the receptor are only modestly effective in the treatment of HNSCC. A consistent mechanism of resistance to EGFR targeting agents has not yet been identified in HNSCC likely due, in part, to the paucity of preclinical models. We assessed the in vitro and in vivo responses of a panel of 10 genotypically validated HNSCC cell lines to the EGFR inhibitors erlotinib and cetuximab to determine their validity as models of resistance to these agents. We defined a narrow range of response to erlotinib in HNSCC cells in vitro and found a positive correlation between EGFR protein expression and erlotinib response. We observed cross-sensitivity in one HNSCC cell line, 686LN, between erlotinib and cetuximab in vivo. We attempted to generate models of cetuximab resistance in HNSCC cell line-derived xenografts and heterotopic tumorgrafts generated directly from primary patient tumors. While all 10 HNSCC cell line xenografts tested were sensitive to cetuximab in vivo, heterotopic patient tumorgrafts varied in response to cetuximab indicating that these models may be more representative of clinical responses. These studies demonstrate the limitations of using HNSCC cell lines to reflect the heterogeneous clinical responses to erlotinib and cetuximab, and suggest that different approaches including heterotopic tumorgrafts may prove more valuable to elucidate mechanisms of clinical resistance to EGFR inhibitors in HNSCC.
Cancer biology & therapy 08/2012; 13(10):935-45. · 3.29 Impact Factor