Experimental Design: To model colorectal cancer tumor cell invasion/metastasis, we have generated invasive (KRASMT/KRASWT/+chr3/p53-null) colorectal cancer cell subpopulations. Receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) screens were used to identify novel proteins that underpin the migratory/invasive phenotype. Migration/invasion was assessed using the XCELLigence system. Tumors from patients with early-stage colorectal cancer (N = 336) were examined for AXL expression.
Results: Invasive colorectal cancer cell subpopulations showed a transition from an epithelial-to-mesenchymal like phenotype with significant increases in migration, invasion, colony-forming ability, and an attenuation of EGF receptor (EGFR)/HER2 autocrine signaling. RTK arrays showed significant increases in AXL levels in all invasive sublines. Importantly, 5-FU treatment resulted in significantly increased migration and invasion, and targeting AXL using pharmacologic inhibition or RNA interference (RNAi) approaches suppressed basal and 5-FU–induced migration and invasion. Significantly, high AXL mRNA and protein expression were found to be associated with poor overall survival in early-stage colorectal cancer tissues.
Conclusions: We have identified AXL as a poor prognostic marker and important mediator of cell migration/invasiveness in colorectal cancer. These findings provide support for the further investigation of AXL as a novel prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target in colorectal cancer, in particular in the adjuvant disease in which EGFR/VEGF–targeted therapies have failed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research