Fibroblast growth factor receptor 4 (FGFR4): a targetable regulator of drug resistance in colorectal cancer

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The discovery of underlying mechanisms of drug resistance, and the development of novel agents to target these pathways, is a priority for patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC). We previously undertook a systems biology approach to design a functional genomic screen and identified fibroblast growth factor receptor 4 (FGFR4) as a potential mediator of drug resistance. The aim of this study was to examine the role of FGFR4 in drug resistance using RNAi and the small-molecule inhibitor BGJ398 (Novartis). We found that FGFR4 is highly expressed at the RNA and protein levels in colon cancer tumour tissue compared with normal colonic mucosa and other tumours. Silencing of FGFR4 reduced cell viability in a panel of colon cancer cell lines and increased caspase-dependent apoptosis. A synergistic interaction was also observed between FGFR4 silencing and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and oxaliplatin chemotherapy in colon cancer cell lines. Mechanistically, FGFR4 silencing decreased activity of the pro-survival STAT3 transcription factor and expression of the anti-apoptotic protein c-FLIP. Furthermore, silencing of STAT3 resulted in downregulation of c-FLIP protein expression, suggesting that FGFR4 may regulate c-FLIP expression via STAT3. A similar phenotype and downstream pathway changes were observed following FGFR4 silencing in cell lines resistant to 5-FU, oxaliplatin and SN38 and upon exposure of parental cells to the FGFR small-molecule inhibitor BGJ398. Our results indicate that FGFR4 is a targetable regulator of chemo-resistance in CRC, and hence inhibiting FGFR4 in combination with 5-FU and oxaliplatin is a potential therapeutic strategy for this disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1046
Number of pages11
JournalCell, Death & Disease
Publication statusPublished - 06 Feb 2014


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