Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI) show antitumor activity in a subset of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. However, the initial tumor response is followed by recurrence. Several studies have suggested the importance of other receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and downstream kinases as potential targets in the treatment of NSCLC. We used the multiple-RTK inhibitor AEE788, which inhibits EGFR, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, with and without the downstream kinase inhibitor RAD001 (an inhibitor of mammalian target of rapamycin). AEE788 inhibited cell growth more effectively than did erlotinib in three NSCLC cell lines examined (A549, H1650, and H1975). However, in the EGFR-TKI-resistant cell line H1975 harboring T790M resistance mutation, cell growth inhibition by AEE788 was only mild, and the phosphorylation of its leading targets such as EGFR and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 was not inhibited. In H1975, AEE788 induced significantly greater cell growth inhibition when combined with RAD001 than when used alone. This cooperative effect was not seen with the combination of erlotinib and RAD001. We found that c-Met was highly phosphorylated in this cell line, and the phosphorylated c-Met was inhibited effectively by AEE788. Using a phospho-RTK array, the phosphorylation of c-Met and insulin-like growth factor-I receptor was inhibited by AEE788. These results suggest that upstream RTK inhibitor overcomes the acquired resistance to EGFR-TKI when combined with downstream kinase inhibitor. Thus, the combined inhibition of upstream and downstream RTKs is a promising strategy for the treatment of NSCLC.
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