Resistance to ErbB2 tyrosine kinase inhibitors in breast cancer is mediated by calcium-dependent activation of RelA.
The widespread clinical use of therapies targeting the ErbB2 receptor tyrosine kinase oncogene represents a significant advance in breast cancer treatment. However, the development of therapeutic resistance represents a dilemma limiting their clinical efficacy, particularly small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors that block ErbB2 autophosphorylation and activation. Here, we show that lapatinib (GW572016), a highly selective, small-molecule inhibitor of the ErbB2 and epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinases, which was recently approved for the treatment of advanced-stage ErbB2(+) breast cancer, unexpectedly triggered a cytoprotective stress response in ErbB2(+) breast cancer cell lines, which was mediated by the calcium-dependent activation of RelA, the prosurvival subunit of NF-kappaB. Abrogation of lapatinib-induced RelA activation using either small interfering RNA constructs or an intracellular calcium chelator enhanced the apoptotic effects of lapatinib in parental ErbB2(+) breast cancer cells and overcame therapeutic resistance to lapatinib in ErbB2(+) breast cancer lines that had been rendered resistant to lapatinib through chronic exposure to the drug, mimicking the clinical setting. In addition, analysis of changes in phospho-RelA expression in sequential clinical biopsies from ErbB2(+) breast cancers treated with lapatinib monotherapy revealed marginally statistically significant differences between responders and nonresponders, which was consistent with our preclinical findings. Elucidating the regulation of RelA by lapatinib in ErbB2(+) breast cancers, and showing its role in the development of therapeutic resistance to lapatinib, identifies another therapeutic target to overcome or prevent the onset of resistance to lapatinib in some women with ErbB2(+) breast cancers.
Xia, W; Bacus, S; Husain, I; Liu, L; Zhao, S; Liu, Z; Moseley, MA; Thompson, JW; Chen, FL; Koch, KM; Spector, NL
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