Dual inhibition of BCL-XL and MCL-1 is required to induce tumour regression in lung squamous cell carcinomas sensitive to FGFR inhibition

Clare E. Weeden, Casey Ah-Cann, Aliaksei Z. Holik, Julie Pasquet, Jean Marc Garnier, Delphine Merino, Guillaume Lessene, Marie-Liesse Labat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Genetic alterations in the fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) have been described in multiple solid tumours including bladder cancer, head and neck and lung squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC). However, recent clinical trials showed limited efficacy of FGFR-targeted therapy in lung SqCC, suggesting combination therapy may be necessary to improve patient outcomes. Here we demonstrate that FGFR therapy primes SqCC for cell death by increasing the expression of the pro-apoptotic protein BIM. We therefore hypothesised that combining BH3-mimetics, potent inhibitors of pro-survival proteins, with FGFR-targeted therapy may enhance the killing of SqCC cells. Using patient-derived xenografts and specific inhibitors of BCL-2, BCL-XL, and MCL-1, we identified a greater reliance of lung SqCC cells on BCL-XL and MCL-1 compared to BCL-2 for survival. However, neither BCL-XL nor MCL-1 inhibitors alone provided a survival benefit in combination FGFR therapy in vivo. Only triple BCL-XL, MCL-1, and FGFR inhibition resulted in tumour volume regression and prolonged survival in vivo, demonstrating the ability of BCL-XL and MCL-1 proteins to compensate for each other in lung SqCC. Our work therefore provides a rationale for the inhibition of MCL-1, BCL-XL, and FGFR1 to maximize therapeutic response in FGFR1-expressing lung SqCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4475-4488
Number of pages14
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 9 2018
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research

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