ATM mutations and E-cadherin expression define sensitivity to EGFR-targeted therapy in colorectal cancer.
ABSTRACT: EGFR-targeted therapy is a key treatment approach in patients with RAS wildtype metastatic colorectal cancers (CRC). Still, also RAS wildtype CRC may be resistant to EGFR-targeted therapy, with few predictive markers available for improved stratification of patients. Here, we investigated response of 7 CRC cell lines (Caco-2, DLD1, HCT116, HT29, LS174T, RKO, SW480) to Cetuximab and correlated this to NGS-based mutation profiles, EGFR promoter methylation and EGFR expression status as well as to E-cadherin expression. Moreover, tissue specimens of primary and/or recurrent tumors as well as liver and/or lung metastases of 25 CRC patients having received Cetuximab and/or Panitumumab were examined for the same molecular markers. In vitro and in situ analyses showed that EGFR promoter methylation and EGFR expression as well as the MSI and or CIMP-type status did not guide treatment responses. In fact, EGFR-targeted treatment responses were also observed in RAS exon 2 p.G13 mutated CRC cell lines or CRC cases and were further linked to PIK3CA exon 9 mutations. In contrast, non-response to EGFR-targeted treatment was associated with ATM mutations and low E-cadherin expression. Moreover, down-regulation of E-cadherin by siRNA in otherwise Cetuximab responding E-cadherin positive cells abrogated their response. Hence, we here identify ATM and E-cadherin expression as potential novel supportive predictive markers for EGFR-targeted therapy.
Project description:<b>Background and Purpose</b>: RAS mutations limit the effectiveness of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibodies in combination with chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients. Therefore, new cell death forms have focused on identifying indirect targets to inhibit Ras-induced oncogenesis. Recently, emerging evidence has shown the potential of triggering ferroptosis for cancer therapy, particularly for eradicating aggressive malignancies that are resistant to traditional therapies. <b>Methods</b>: KRAS mutant CRC cell HCT116 and Lovo were treated with cetuximab and ?-elemene, a bioactive compound isolated from Chinese herb <i>Curcumae Rhizoma</i>. Ferroptosis and epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) were detected <i>in vitro</i> and <i>in vivo</i>. Orthotopic CRC animal model were established and the tumor growth was monitored by IVIS bioluminescence imaging. Tumor tissues were collected to determine ferroptosis effect and the expression of EMT markers after the treatment. <b>Results</b>: CCK-8 assay showed that synergetic effect was obtained when 125 µg/ml ?-elemene was combined with 25 µg/ml cetuximab in KRAS mutant CRC cells. AV/PI staining suggested a non-apoptotic mode of cell death after the treatment with ?-elemene and cetuximab. <i>In vitro</i>, ?-elemene in combination with cetuximab was shown to induce iron-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation, glutathione (GSH) depletion, lipid peroxidation, upregulation of HO-1 and transferrin, and downregulation of negative regulatory proteins for ferroptosis (GPX4, SLC7A11, FTH1, glutaminase, and SLC40A1) in KRAS mutant CRC cells. Meanwhile, combinative treatment of ?-elemene and cetuximab inhibited cell migration and decreased the expression of mesenchymal markers (Vimentin, N-cadherin, Slug, Snail and MMP-9), but promoted the expression of epithelial marker E-cadherin. Moreover, ferroptosis inhibitors but not other cell death suppressors abrogated the effect of ?-elemene in combination with cetuximab on KRAS mutant CRC cells. <i>In vivo</i>, co-treatment with ?-elemene and cetuximab inhibited KRAS mutant tumor growth and lymph nodes metastases. <b>Conclusions</b>: Our data for the first time suggest that the natural product ?-elemene is a new ferroptosis inducer and combinative treatment of ?-elemene and cetuximab is sensitive to KRAS mutant CRC cells by inducing ferroptosis and inhibiting EMT, which will hopefully provide a prospective strategy for CRC patients with RAS mutations.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody cetuximab is used in metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC), and predicting responsive patients garners great interest, due to the high cost of therapy. Mutations in the KRAS gene occur in ~40% of CRC and are a negative predictor of response to cetuximab. However, many KRAS-wildtype patients do not benefit from cetuximab. We previously published a gene expression predictor of sensitivity to erlotinib, an EGFR inhibitor. The purpose of this study was to determine if this predictor could identify KRAS-wildtype CRC patients who will benefit from cetuximab therapy. METHODS: Microarray data from 80 metastatic CRC patients subsequently treated with cetuximab were extracted from the study by Khambata-Ford et al. The study included KRAS status, response, and PFS for each patient. The gene expression data were scaled and analyzed using our predictive model. An improved predictive model of response was identified by removing features in the 180-gene predictor that introduced noise. RESULTS: Forty-three of eighty patients were identified as harboring wildtype-KRAS. When the model was applied to these patients, the predicted-sensitive group had significantly longer PFS than the predicted-resistant group (median 88 days vs. 56 days; mean 117 days vs. 63 days, respectively, p = 0.008). Kaplan-Meier curves were also significantly improved in the predicted-sensitive group (p = 0.0059, HR = 0.4109. The model was simplified to 26 of the original 180 genes and this further improved stratification of PFS (median 147 days vs. 56.5 days in the predicted sensitive and resistant groups, respectively, p < 0.0001). However, the simplified model will require further external validation, as features were selected based on their correlation to PFS in this dataset. CONCLUSION: Our model of sensitivity to EGFR inhibition stratified PFS following cetuximab in KRAS-wildtype CRC patients. This study represents the first true external validation of a molecular predictor of response to cetuximab in KRAS-WT metastatic CRC. Our model may hold clinical utility for identifying patients responsive to cetuximab and may therefore minimize toxicity and cost while maximizing benefit.
Project description:Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide and about 20% is metastatic at diagnosis and untreatable. The anti-EGFR therapy in metastatic patients is led by the presence of KRAS-mutations in tumor tissue. KRAS-wild-type CRC patients showed a positive response rate of about 70% to cetuximab or panitumumab combined with chemotherapy. MiRNAs are promising markers in oncology and could improve our knowledge on pathogenesis and drug resistance in CRC patients. This class of molecules represents an opportunity for the development of miRNA-based strategies to overcome the ineffectiveness of anti-EGFR therapy. We performed an integrative analysis of miRNA expression profile between KRAS-mutated CRC and KRAS-wildtype CRC and paired normal colic tissue (NCT). We revealed an overexpression of miR-425-5p in KRAS-mutated CRC compared to KRAS-wild type CRC and NCT and demonstrated that miR-425-5p exerts regulatory effects on target genes involved in cellular proliferation, migration, invasion, apoptosis molecular networks. These epigenetic mechanisms could be responsible of the strong aggressiveness of KRAS-mutated CRC compared to KRAS-wildtype CRC. We proved that some miR-425-5p targeted genes are involved in EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance pathway, suggesting that therapies based on miR-425-5p may have strong potential in targeting KRAS-driven CRC. Moreover, we demonstrated a role in the oncogenesis of miR-31-5p, miR-625-5p and miR-579 by comparing CRC versus NCT. Our results underlined that miR-425-5p might act as an oncogene to participate in the pathogenesis of KRAS-mutated CRC and contribute to increase the aggressiveness of this subcategory of CRC, controlling a complex molecular network.
Project description:The long-term efficacy of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR)-targeted antibody cetuximab in advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) patients is limited by the emergence of drug-resistant (persister) cells. Recent studies in other cancer types have shown that cells surviving initial treatment with targeted agents are often vulnerable to alterations in cell metabolism including oxidative stress. Vitamin C (VitC) is an antioxidant agent which can paradoxically trigger oxidative stress at pharmacological dose. Here we tested the hypothesis that VitC in combination with cetuximab could restrain the emergence of secondary resistance to EGFR blockade in CRC RAS/BRAF wild-type models. We found that addition of VitC to cetuximab impairs the emergence of drug persisters, limits the growth of CRC organoids, and significantly delays acquired resistance in CRC patient-derived xenografts. Mechanistically, proteomic and metabolic flux analysis shows that cetuximab blunts carbohydrate metabolism by blocking glucose uptake and glycolysis, beyond promoting slow but progressive ROS production. In parallel, VitC disrupts iron homeostasis and further increases ROS levels ultimately leading to ferroptosis. Combination of VitC and cetuximab orchestrates a synthetic lethal metabolic cell death program triggered by ATP depletion and oxidative stress, which effectively limits the emergence of acquired resistance to anti-EGFR antibodies. Considering that high-dose VitC is known to be safe in cancer patients, our findings might have clinical impact on CRC patients treated with anti-EGFR therapies.
Project description:Cetuximab is an approved treatment for metastatic colorectal carcinoma (mCRC) with codon 12/13-KRAS mutations, recently questioned for its validity, and alternative mutation-based biomarkers were proposed. We set out to investigate whether an expression signature can also predict response by utilizing a cetuximab mouse clinical trial (MCT) dataset on a cohort of 25 randomly selected EGFR+ CRC patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). While we found that the expression of EGFR and its ligands are not predictive of the cetuximab response, we tested a published RAS pathway signature, a 147-gene expression signature proposed to describe RAS pathway activity, against this MCT dataset. Interestingly, our study showed that the observed cetuximab activity has a strong correlation with the RAS pathway signature score, which was also demonstrated to have a certain degree of correlation with a historic clinical dataset. Altogether, the independent validations in unrelated datasets from independent cohort of CRCs strongly suggest that RAS pathway signature may be a relevant expression signature predictive of CRC response to cetuximab. Our data seem to suggest that an mRNA expressing signature may also be developed as a predictive biomarker for drug response, similarly to genetic mutations.
Project description:Drugs targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), such as cetuximab and panitumumab, have been prescribed for metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC), but patients harboring KRAS mutations are insensitive to them and do not have an alternative drug to overcome the problem. The levels of ?-catenin, EGFR, and RAS, especially mutant KRAS, are increased in CRC patient tissues due to mutations of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), which occur in 90% of human CRCs. The increases in these proteins by APC loss synergistically promote tumorigenesis. Therefore, we tested KYA1797K, a recently identified small molecule that degrades both ?-catenin and Ras via GSK3? activation, and its capability to suppress the cetuximab resistance of KRAS-mutated CRC cells. KYA1797K suppressed the growth of tumor xenografts induced by CRC cells as well as tumor organoids derived from CRC patients having both APC and KRAS mutations. Lowering the levels of both ?-catenin and RAS as well as EGFR via targeting the Wnt/?-catenin pathway is a therapeutic strategy for controlling CRC and other types of cancer with aberrantly activated the Wnt/?-catenin and EGFR-RAS pathways, including those with resistance to EGFR-targeting drugs attributed to KRAS mutations.
Project description:Background: Anti-EGFR therapies have been recommended for advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with wild-type RAS and PIK3CA mutation. However, PIK3CA mutations are a poor prognostic marker and a negative predictor of response to anti-EGFR therapies in RAS wild-type CRC. Therefore, new and advanced treatment strategies are needed for personalized medical treatment of patients with wild-type RAS and PIK3CA mutation. Methods: Patient-derived tumor cells were collected from the ascites of a refractory colon cancer patient with wild-type RAS and PIK3CA mutation. We performed a cell viability assay for cetuximab, AZD5363 (AKT inhibitor), and everolimus (mTOR inhibitor) using PDCs. We also evaluated combinations of cetuximab plus AZD5363 or everolimus in a cell viability assay. Results: Based on cellular proliferation by MTT assay, tumor cells were significantly inhibited by 1uM cetuximab (control vs. cetuximab, mean growth = 100.0% vs 58.07%, p = 0.0103), 1uM AZD5363 (control vs. AZD5363, mean growth = 100.0% vs 58.22%, p = 0.0123), and 1uM everolimus (control vs. everolimus, mean growth = 100.0% vs 52.17%, p = 0.0011). Tumor cell growth was more profoundly reduced by combinations of cetuximab plus AZD5363 (control vs. cetuximab plus AZD5363, mean growth = 100.0% vs 25.00%, p < 0.0001) or everolimus (control vs. cetuximab+everolimus, mean growth = 100.0% vs 28.24%, p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Taken together, these results indicate that RAS wild-type and PIK3CA mutant PDCs originating from CRC are considerably inhibited by treatment with cetuximab plus AZD5363 or everolimus, with downregulation of the AKT and ERK pathways. These combinations may be considered as new options for advanced CRC patients with wild-type RAS and PIK3CA mutation in the context of clinical trials.
Project description:Resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) targeted monoclonal antibody therapy represents a clinical challenge in patients suffered from RAS wild-type (WT) metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). However, the molecular mechanisms and key factors conferring this resistance are largely unknown. Forkhead transcription factors of the O class 3a (FoxO3a), an important regulator of cell survival, has been reported with dual functions in tumor recently. In this study, we found that FoxO3a was highly expressed in cetuximab resistant CRC tissues compared with cetuximab sensitive tissues. We therefore further analyzed its function in induced cetuximab resistant RAS-WT CRC cells (Caco2-CR) and intrinsic resistant cells with BRAF mutation (HT29). We found that FoxO3a was significantly up-regulated in Caco2-CR as well as in cetuximab treated HT29 cells. Knockdown of FoxO3a could sensitize these cells to cetuximab treatment with reduced cell proliferation and migration ability. Further, biochemical experiments demonstrated that FoxO3a directly bind to c-Myc promoter and activated the transcription of the c-Myc gene, thus participated in regulating of c-Myc downstream genes, including ACO2, LARS2, MRPL12 and PKM2 in these resistant cells. Moreover, knockdown of c-Myc elevated cell apoptosis to cetuximab treatment and suppressed cell proliferation and migration ability consistently. Altogether, our study indicates that FoxO3a might be a key regulator in cetuximab resistance through up-regulating c-Myc in colorectal cancer targeted therapy.
Project description:Monoclonal antibodies targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), cetuximab and panitumumab, are a mainstay of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) treatment. However, a significant number of patients suffer from primary or acquired resistance. RAS mutations are negative predictors of clinical efficacy of anti-EGFR antibodies in patients with mCRC. Oncogenic RAS activates the MAPK and PI3K/AKT pathways, which are considered the main effectors of resistance. However, the relative impact of these pathways in RAS-mutant CRC is less defined. A better mechanistic understanding of RAS-mediated resistance may guide development of rational intervention strategies. To this end we developed cancer models for functional dissection of resistance to anti-EGFR therapy in vitro and in vivo. To selectively activate MAPK- or AKT-signaling we expressed conditionally activatable RAF-1 and AKT in cancer cells. We found that either pathway independently protected sensitive cancer models against anti-EGFR antibody treatment in vitro and in vivo. RAF-1- and AKT-mediated resistance was associated with increased expression of anti-apoptotic BCL-2 proteins. Biomarkers of MAPK and PI3K/AKT pathway activation correlated with inferior outcome in a cohort of mCRC patients receiving cetuximab-based therapy. Dual pharmacologic inhibition of PI3K and MEK successfully sensitized primary resistant CRC models to anti-EGFR therapy. In conclusion, combined targeting of MAPK and PI3K/AKT signaling, but not single pathways, may be required to enhance the efficacy of anti-EGFR antibody therapy in patients with RAS-mutated CRC as well as in RAS wild type tumors with clinical resistance.
Project description:To develop gene expression profiles that characterise KRAS-, BRAF- or PIK3CA-activated- tumours, and to explore whether these profiles might be helpful in predicting the response to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway inhibitors better than mutation status alone.Fresh frozen tumour samples from 381 colorectal cancer (CRC) patients were collected and mutations in KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA were assessed. Using microarray data, three individual oncogenic and a combined model were developed and validated in an independent set of 80 CRC patients, and in a dataset from metastatic CRC patients treated with cetuximab.175 tumours (45.9%) harboured oncogenic mutations in KRAS (30.2%), BRAF (11.0%) and PIK3CA (11.5%). Activating mutation signatures for KRAS (75 genes), for BRAF (58 genes,) and for PIK3CA (49 genes) were developed. The development of a combined oncogenic pathway signature-classified tumours as 'activated oncogenic', or as 'wildtype-like' with a sensitivity of 90.3% and a specificity of 61.7%. The identified signature revealed other mechanisms that can activate ERK/MAPK pathway in KRAS, BRAF and PIK3CA wildtype patients. The combined signature is associated with response to cetuximab treatment in patients with metastatic CRC (HR 2.51, p<0.0009).A combined oncogenic pathway signature allows the identification of patients with an active EGFR-signalling pathway that could benefit from downstream pathway inhibition.