Molecularly targeted therapy for the treatment of head and neck cancer: a review of the ErbB family inhibitors.
ABSTRACT: The majority of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) present with locally advanced disease, which requires site-specific combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Despite aggressive therapy, survival outcomes remain poor, and treatment-related morbidity is not negligible. For patients with recurrent or metastatic disease, therapeutic options are further limited and prognosis is dismal. With this in mind, molecularly targeted therapy provides a promising approach to optimizing treatment efficacy while minimizing associated toxicity. The ErbB family of receptors (ie, epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR], ErbB2/human epidermal growth factor receptor [HER]-2, ErbB3/HER3, and ErbB4/HER4) is known to contribute to oncogenic processes, such as cellular proliferation and survival. EGFR, specifically, is upregulated in more than 90% of HNSCC, has been implicated in radiation resistance, and correlates with poorer clinical outcomes. The central role of EGFR in the pathogenesis of HNSCC suggests that inhibition of this pathway represents an attractive treatment strategy. As a result, EGFR inhibition has been extensively studied, with the emergence of two classes of drug therapy: monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors. While the monoclonal antibody cetuximab is currently the only US Food and Drug Administration-approved EGFR inhibitor for the treatment of HNSCC, numerous investigational drugs are being evaluated in clinical trials. This paper will review the role of the ErbB family in the pathogenesis of HNSCC, as well as the evidence-based data for the use of ErbB family inhibition in clinical practice.
Project description:Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a member of the ErbB family of receptors. Its stimulation by endogenous ligands, EGF or transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) results in activation of intracellular tyrosine kinase, therefore, cell cycle progression. High levels of EGFR expression are correlated with poor prognosis and resistance to radiation therapy in a variety of cancers, mostly in squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). Blocking the EGFR by a monoclonal antibody results in inhibition of the stimulation of the receptor, therefore, in inhibition of cell proliferation, enhanced apoptosis, and reduced angiogenesis, invasiveness and metastases. The EGFR is a prime target for new anticancer therapy in SCCHN, and other agents in development include small molecular tyrosine kinase inhibitors and antisense therapies.
Project description:New agents and treatment strategies that can be safely and effectively integrated into current treatment paradigms for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are urgently needed. To date, the anti-EGF receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody, cetuximab, is the first and only molecularly targeted therapy to demonstrate a survival benefit for patients with recurrent or metastatic disease. Other anti-EGFR-targeted therapies, including monoclonal antibodies (e.g., panitumumab and zalutumumab) and reversible and irreversible ErbB family tyrosine kinase inhibitors (e.g., lapatinib, afatinib and dacomitinib) are being actively investigated in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. In addition, validated biomarkers are needed to predict clinical benefit and resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in HNSCC. This review will compare and contrast the mechanisms of action of anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors and also discuss their role in the management of HNSCC and the potential impact of human papillomavirus status in the development of these targeted agents.
Project description:Recurrent and/or metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) continues to be a source of significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Agents that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have demonstrated beneficial effects in this setting. Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody against the EGFR, improves locoregional control and overall survival when used as a radiation sensitizer in patients with locoregionally advanced HNSCC undergoing definitive radiation therapy with curative intent. Cetuximab is also active as monotherapy in patients whose cancer has progressed on platinum-containing therapy. In the first-line setting for incurable HNSCC, cetuximab added to platinum-based chemotherapy significantly improves overall survival compared with standard chemotherapy alone. These positive results have had a significant impact on the standard of care for advanced HNSCC. In this review, we will discuss the mechanism of action, clinical data and common toxicities that pertain to the use of cetuximab in the treatment of advanced incurable HNSCC.
Project description:Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) accounts for 3-5% of all tumor types and remains an unmet medical need with only two targeted therapies approved to date. ErbB3 (HER3), the kinase-impaired member of the EGFR/ErbB family, has been implicated as a disease driver in a number of solid tumors, including a subset of HNSCC. Here we show that the molecular components required for ErbB3 activation, including its ligand neuregulin-1 (NRG1), are highly prevalent in HNSCC and that HER2, but not EGFR, is the major activating ErbB3 kinase partner. We demonstrate that cetuximab treatment primarily inhibits the ERK signaling pathway and KTN3379, an anti-ErbB3 monoclonal antibody, inhibits the AKT signaling pathway, and that dual ErbB receptor inhibition results in enhanced anti-tumor activity in HNSCC models. Surprisingly, we found that while NRG1 is required for ErbB3 activation, it was not sufficient to fully predict for KTN3379 activity. An evaluation of HNSCC patient samples demonstrated that NRG1 expression was significantly associated with expression of the EGFR ligands amphiregulin (AREG) and transforming growth factor ? (TGF?). Furthermore, NRG1-positive HNSCC cell lines that secreted high levels of AREG and TGF? or contained high levels of EGFR homodimers (H11D) demonstrated a better response to KTN3379. Although ErbB3 and EGFR activation are uncoupled at the receptor level, their respective signaling pathways are linked through co-expression of their respective ligands. We propose that NRG1 expression and EGFR activation signatures may enrich for improved efficacy of anti-ErbB3 therapeutic mAb approaches when combined with EGFR-targeting therapies in HNSCC.
Project description:Despite recent advances in radiotherapy and chemotherapy, survival rates for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) have remained poor. The focus of SCCHN therapy has more recently shifted to the molecular level, particularly the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/ErbB) pathway. Several agents that target the EGFR pathway, including monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors, are under investigation for SCCHN. Searches of PubMed and results of key oncology congresses were performed to identify relevant articles and abstracts. The EGFR-targeted monoclonal antibody cetuximab is approved for the treatment of locally advanced SCCHN in combination with radiotherapy, for first-line treatment of recurrent or metastatic SCCHN in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy and 5-fluorouracil, and for recurrent or metastatic SCCHN following progression with platinum-based chemotherapy. Other investigational EGFR-targeted monoclonal antibodies (e.g., panitumumab, nimotuzumab, zalutumumab) are in clinical development for SCCHN. Inhibition of the tyrosine kinase domain of EGFR has also been explored as a therapeutic approach in SCCHN using small-molecule reversible inhibitors, such as gefitinib and erlotinib. However, a key challenge in SCCHN is the development of resistance, and strategies are being pursued to delay or overcome resistance to EGFR-targeted agents. These strategies include development of agents that inhibit multiple ErbB receptors simultaneously (e.g., lapatinib) or that bind multiple ErbB family receptors irreversibly (e.g., afatinib, PF-00299804) and investigation of combinations of agents that target multiple pathways implicated in the pathogenesis of SCCHN. Ongoing large clinical trials are evaluating these emerging agents and combinations for the treatment of SCCHN.
Project description:Current treatments for tumors expressing epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) include anti-EGFR monoclonal antibodies, often used in conjunction with the standard chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other EGFR inhibitors. While monoclonal antibody treatment is efficacious in many patients, drawbacks include its high cost of treatment and side effects associated with multiple drug infusions. As an alternative to monoclonal antibody treatments, we have focused on peptide-based vaccination to trigger natural anti-tumor antibodies. Here, we demonstrate that peptides based on a region of the EGFR extracellular domain IV break immune tolerance to EGFR and elicit anti-tumor immunity. Mice immunized with isoforms of EGFR peptide p580-598 generated anti-EGFR antibody and T-cell responses. Iso-aspartyl (iso-Asp)-modified EGFR p580 immune sera inhibit in vitro growth of EGFR overexpressing human A431 tumor cells, as well as promote antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Antibodies induced by Asp and iso-Asp p580 bound homologous regions of the EGFR family members HER2 and HER3. EGFR p580 immune sera also inhibited the growth of the human tumor cell line MDA-MB-453 that expresses HER2 but not EGFR. Asp and iso-Asp EGFR p580 induced antibodies were also able to inhibit the in vivo growth of EGFR-expressing tumors. These data demonstrate that EGFR peptides from a region of the EGFR extracellular domain IV promote anti-tumor immunity, tumor cell killing, and antibodies that are cross reactive with ErbB family members.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Over 50% of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) present with locoregionally advanced disease. Those at intermediate-to-high risk of recurrence after definitive therapy exhibit advanced disease based on tumour size or lymph node involvement, non-oropharynx primary sites, human papillomavirus (HPV)-negative oropharyngeal cancer, or HPV-positive oropharynx cancer with smoking history (>10-pack-years). Non-surgical approaches include concurrent chemoradiotherapy, induction chemotherapy followed by definitive radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy, or radiotherapy alone. Following locoregional therapies (including surgical salvage of residual cervical nodes), no standard intervention exists. Overexpression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), an ErbB family member, is associated with poor prognosis in HNSCC. EGFR-targeted cetuximab is the only targeted therapy that impacts overall survival and is approved for HNSCC in the USA or Europe. However, resistance often occurs, and new approaches, such as targeting multiple ErbB family members, may be required. Afatinib, an irreversible ErbB family blocker, demonstrated antiproliferative activity in preclinical models and comparable clinical efficacy with cetuximab in a randomized phase II trial in recurrent or metastatic HNSCC. LUX-Head & Neck 2, a phase III study, will assess adjuvant afatinib versus placebo following chemoradiotherapy in primary unresected locoregionally advanced intermediate-to-high-risk HNSCC. METHODS/DESIGN:Patients with primary unresected locoregionally advanced HNSCC, in good clinical condition with unfavourable risk of recurrence, and no evidence of disease after chemoradiotherapy will be randomized 2:1 to oral once-daily afatinib (40 mg starting dose) or placebo. As HPV status will not be determined for eligibility, unfavourable risk is defined as non-oropharynx primary site or oropharynx cancer in patients with a smoking history (>10 pack-years). Treatment will continue for 18 months or until recurrence or unacceptable adverse events occur. The primary endpoint measure is duration of disease-free survival; secondary endpoint measures are disease-free survival rate at 2 years, overall survival, health-related quality of life and safety. DISCUSSION:Given the unmet need in the adjuvant treatment of intermediate-to-high-risk HNSCC patients, it is expected that LUX-Head & Neck 2 will provide new insights into treatment in this setting and might demonstrate the ability of afatinib to significantly improve disease-free survival, compared with placebo. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01345669.
Project description:Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a common and debilitating form of cancer characterized by poor patient outcomes and low survival rates. In HNSCC, genetic aberrations in phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway genes are common, and small molecules targeting these pathways have shown modest effects as monotherapies in patients. Whereas emerging preclinical data support the combined use of PI3K and EGFR inhibitors in HNSCC, in-human studies have displayed limited clinical success so far. Here, we examined the responses of a large panel of patient-derived HNSCC cell lines to various combinations of PI3K and EGFR inhibitors, including EGFR agents with varying specificity and mechanistic characteristics. We confirmed the efficacy of PI3K and EGFR combination therapies, observing synergy with ? isoform-selective PI3K inhibitor HS-173 and irreversible EGFR/ERBB2 dual inhibitor afatinib in most models tested. Surprisingly, however, our results demonstrated only modest improvement in response to HS-173 with reversible EGFR inhibitor gefitinib. This difference in efficacy was not explained by differences in ERBB target selectivity between afatinib and gefitinib; despite effectively disrupting ERBB2 phosphorylation, the addition of ERBB2 inhibitor CP-724714 failed to enhance the effect of HS-173 gefitinib dual therapy. Accordingly, although irreversible ERBB inhibitors showed strong synergistic activity with HS-173 in our models, none of the reversible ERBB inhibitors were synergistic in our study. Therefore, our results suggest that the ERBB inhibitor mechanism of action may be critical for enhanced synergy with PI3K inhibitors in HNSCC patients and motivate further preclinical studies for ERBB and PI3K combination therapies.
Project description:Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a major cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality worldwide. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted therapy is an attractive strategy alternative to conventional cancer treatments for HNSCC, but its efficacy remains controversial. T-cell-based immunotherapy has been proposed as a novel therapeutic approach to improve the clinical outcome for HNSCC. In this study, we report human epidermal receptor (HER) family epitopes that induced CD4 T-cell responses to HNSCC. The results provide support for a novel strategy to treat HNSCC by combining EGFR-targeted therapy with T-cell-based immunotherapy.We evaluated the capacity of predicted CD4 T-cell peptide epitopes from EGFR to induce antitumour immune responses in vitro. In addition, EGFR inhibitors were evaluated for their ability to augment tumour MHC class II expression in HNSCC cell lines and subsequently increase T-cell recognition.Among several predicted peptide epitopes, EGFR875-889 elicited CD4 T-cell responses that were restricted by HLA-DR4, DR15, or DR53 molecules, indicating that the peptide functions as a promiscuous T-cell epitope. The peptide-reactive T cells responded to autologous dendritic cells loaded with EGFR-expressing tumour cell lysates, indicating that these epitopes are naturally processed. In addition, the CD4 T cells were capable of directly recognising and killing HNSCC cells expressing EGFR and the appropriate HLA class II molecule. T cells reactive with the EGFR875-889 epitope could be detected in the blood of HNSCC patients. EGFR875-889-reactive CD4 T cells were also able to recognise several peptide analogues derived from homologous regions of EGFR family members, HER-2, HER-3 and c-MET. Finally, we examined the effects of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition or EGFR-blocking antibodies on CD4 T-cell tumour reactivity. Treatment of tumour cells with the EGFR inhibitors enhanced tumour recognition by EGFR875-889-reactive T cells presumably due to the upregulation of HLA-DR expression in the HNSCC cells.We identified novel CD4 T-cell EGFR epitopes and amongst these, EGFR875-889 functions as a promiscuous helper T-cell epitope that can elicit effective antitumour T-cell responses against tumours expressing HER family members and c-MET. These observations should facilitate the translation of T-cell-based immunotherapy into the clinic for the treatment of HNSCC and provide a rational basis for EGFR inhibition, immune-targeted combination therapy.
Project description:Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling is strongly implicated in glioblastoma (GBM) tumorigenesis. However, molecular agents targeting EGFR have demonstrated minimal efficacy in clinical trials, suggesting the existence of GBM resistance mechanisms. GBM cells with stem-like properties (CSCs) are highly efficient at tumor initiation and exhibit therapeutic resistance. In this study, GBMCSC lines showed sphere-forming and tumor initiation capacity after EGF withdrawal from cell culture media, compared with normal neural stem cells that rapidly perished after EGF withdrawal. Compensatory activation of related ERBB family receptors (ERBB2 and ERBB3) was observed in GBM CSCs deprived of EGFR signal (EGF deprivation or cetuximab inhibition), suggesting an intrinsic GBM resistance mechanism for EGFR-targeted therapy. Dual inhibition of EGFR and ERBB2 with lapatinib significantly reduced GBM proliferation in colony formation assays compared to cetuximab-mediated EGFR-specific inhibition. Phosphorylation of downstream ERBB signaling components (AKT, ERK1/2) and GBM CSC proliferation were inhibited by lapatinib. Collectively, these findings show that GBM therapeutic resistance to EGFR inhibitors may be explained by compensatory activation of EGFR-related family members (ERBB2, ERBB3) enabling GBM CSC proliferation, and therefore simultaneous blockade of multiple ERBB family members may be required for more efficacious GBM therapy.