Activation of the EGFR pathway is one of the mechanisms inducing acquired resistance to anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) such as crizotinib and alectinib. Ceritinib is a highly selective ALK inhibitor and shows promising efficacy in non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) harboring the ALK gene rearrangement. However, the precise mechanism underlying acquired resistance to ceritinib is not well-defined. This study set out to clarify the mechanism in ALK-translocated lung cancer and to find the preclinical rationale overcoming EGFR pathway-induced acquired resistance to ALKTKIs. To this end ceritinib-resistant cells (H3122-CER) were established from the H3122 NSCLC cell line harboring the ALK gene rearrangement via long-term exposure to ceritinib. H3122-CER cells acquired resistance to ceritinib through EGFR bypass pathway activation. Furthermore, H3122 cells that became resistant to ceritinib or alectinib through EGFR pathway activation showed cross-resistance to other ALK-TKIs. Ceritinib and afatinib combination treatment partially restored the sensitivity to ceritinib. Implications: This study proposes a preclinical rationale to use ALK-TKIs and afatinib combination therapy for ALK-translocated lung cancers that have acquired resistance to ALK-TKIs through EGFR pathway activation.
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