Induction of anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) as a novel mechanism of EGFR inhibitor resistance in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patient-derived models

Xiaoming Ouyang, Ashley Barling, Aletha Lesch, Jeffrey W. Tyner, Gabrielle Choonoo, Christina Zheng, Sophia Jeng, Toni M. West, Daniel Clayburgh, Sara A. Courtneidge, Shannon K. McWeeney, Molly Kulesz-Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) currently only has one FDA-approved cancer intrinsic targeted therapy, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor cetuximab, to which only approximately 10% of tumors are sensitive. In order to extend therapy options, we subjected patient-derived HNSCC cells to small-molecule inhibitor and siRNA screens, first, to find effective combination therapies with an EGFR inhibitor, and second, to determine a potential mechanistic basis for repurposing the FDA approved agents for HNSCC. The combinations of EGFR inhibitor with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitors demonstrated synergy at the highest ratio in our cohort, 4/8 HNSCC patients' derived tumor cells, and this corresponded with an effectiveness of siRNA targeting ALK combined with the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib. Co-targeting EGFR and ALK decreased HNSCC cell number and colony formation ability and increased annexin V staining. Because ALK expression is low and ALK fusions are infrequent in HNSCC, we hypothesized that gefitinib treatment could induce ALK expression. We show that ALK expression was induced in HNSCC patient-derived cells both in 2D and 3D patient-derived cell culture models, and in patient-derived xenografts in mice. Four different ALK inhibitors, including two (ceritinib and brigatinib) FDA approved for lung cancer, were effective in combination with gefitinib. Together, we identified induction of ALK by EGFR inhibitor as a novel mechanism potentially relevant to resistance to EGFR inhibitor, a high ratio of response of HNSCC patient-derived tumor cells to a combination of ALK and EGFR inhibitors, and applicability of repurposing ALK inhibitors to HNSCC that lack ALK aberrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-933
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Volume19
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 2018

Keywords

  • ALK
  • EGFR
  • EGFR inhibitor resistance
  • HNSCC
  • patient-derived models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research

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