Purpose: Up to now, there have been no established predictive markers for response to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/HER1/erbB1) inhibitors alone and in combination with chemotherapy in colorectal cancer. To identify markers that predict response to EGFR-based chemotherapy regimens, we analyzed the response of human colorectal cancer cell lines to the EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor, gefitinib (Iressa, AstraZeneca, Wilmington, DE), as a single agent and in combination with oxaliplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Experimental Design: Cell viability was assessed using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and crystal violet cell viability assays and analyzed by ANOVA. Apoptosis was measured by flow cytometry, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and caspase 3 cleavage. EGFR protein phosphorylation was detected by Western blotting. Results: Cell lines displaying high constitutive EGFR phosphorylation (a surrogate marker for EGFR activity) were more sensitive to gefitinib. Furthermore, in cell lines exhibiting low constitutive EGFR phosphorylation, an antagonistic interaction between gefitinib and oxaliplatin was observed, whereas in cell lines with high basal EGFR phosphorylation, the interaction was synergistic. In addition, oxaliplatin treatment increased EGFR phosphorylation in those cell lines in which oxaliplatin and gefitinib were synergistic but down-regulated EGFR phosphorylation in those lines in which oxaliplatin and gefitinib were antagonistic. In contrast to oxaliplatin, 5-FU treatment increased EGFR phosphorylation in all cell lines and this correlated with synergistic decreases in cell viability when 5-FU was combined with gefitinib. Conclusions: These results suggest that phospho-EGFR levels determine the sensitivity of colorectal cancer cells to gefitinib alone and that chemotherapy-mediated changes in phospho-EGFR levels determine the nature of interaction between gefitinib and chemotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research