Synergy of epidermal growth factor receptor kinase inhibitor AG1478 and ErbB2 kinase inhibitor AG879 in human colon carcinoma cells is associated with induction of apoptosis

Yunfei Zhou, Michael G. Brattain

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Previous studies have shown that constitutive activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB2 by elevated autocrine transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) expression plays an important role in colon cancer progression. Coexpression of EGFR and ErbB2 is found in a subset of colon cancers and may cooperatively promote cancer cell growth and survival, as heterodimerization is known to provide for diversification of signal transduction. In this study, the EGFR-selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) AG1478 inhibited cell growth of an aggressive human colon carcinoma cell line, FET6αS26X, which harbors constitutively activated EGFR after stable transfection with TGF-α cDNA. However, AG1478 failed to induce apoptosis in FET6αS26X cells at concentrations sufficient for cell growth inhibition and complete suppression of EGFR phosphorylation. Similarly, AG879, a selective ErbB2 TKI, was incapable of inducing apoptosis in FET6αS26X cells at concentrations sufficient to inhibit cell growth and ErbB2 phosphorylation. To test the hypothesis that targeting both ErbB family members would show better efficacy than targeting the single receptors, combinations of inhibitors at fixed ratios of 1:1, 5:1, and 10:1 of AG1478 and AG879, respectively, were compared with single drugs for inhibition of cell growth. All combinations resulted in synergistic effects as indicated by combination index analysis. Synergistic inhibition was associated with induction of apoptosis as reflected by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage, caspase-3 activation, and Annexin V staining. Finally, Western blot analysis showed significant inhibition of phosphorylation of both EGFR and ErbB2 by the combination treatment. These data suggest that the strategy to target both EGFR and ErbB2 simultaneously might result in more efficient inhibition of tumor growth than to target single receptor alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5848-5856
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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