Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a highly aggressive, heterogeneous disease with poor prognosis and no effective targeted therapies. EGFR is highly expressed in basal-like TNBC and is considered as a potential therapeutic target. However, EGFR targeting exerts only marginal clinical benefits, possibly due to activation of compensatory signaling pathways, which are frequently associated with HER3 upregulation. Here we show that concomitant targeting of EGFR and the nonreceptor tyrosine kinases PYK2/FAK synergistically inhibits the proliferation of basal-like TNBC cells in vitro and attenuates tumor growth in a mouse xenograft model. Dual targeting of EGFR and PYK2/FAK inhibited complementary key growth and survival pathways mediated by AKT, S6K, STAT3, and ERK1/2 activation. PYK2 inhibition also abrogated HER3 upregulation in response to EGFR antagonists, thereby circumventing HER3-associated drug resistance. Mechanistically, PYK2 inhibition facilitated the proteasomal degradation of HER3 while inducing upregulation of NDRG1 (N-myc downstream regulated 1 gene). NDRG1 enhanced the interaction of HER3 with the ubiquitin ligase NEDD4, while PYK2, which interacts with NEDD4 and HER3, interfered with NEDD4-HER3 binding, suggesting that the PYK2-NDRG1-NEDD4 circuit has a critical role in receptor degradation, drug response, and resistance mechanism. Our studies offer a preclinical proof of concept for a strategy of cotargeting the EGFR and PYK2/FAK kinases to improve TNBC therapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research