Background: Gleevec (aka STI571, Imatinib) is a recently FDA approved anti-tumor drug for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Gleevec binds specifically to BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase and inhibit the tyrosine kinase activity. It cross-reacts with another two important membrane tyrosine kinase receptors, c-kit and PDGF receptors. We sought to investigate if Gleevec has a potential role in treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.
Results: We have shown that Gleevec alone can inhibit the A549 lung cancer cell growth in dose-dependent manner, and the optimal concentration of Gleevec inhibition of A549 cell growth is at the range of 2-3 microM (IC50). We have also shown that A549 cells are resistant to cisplatin treatment (IC50 64 microM). Addition of Gleevec to the A549 cells treated with cisplatin resulted in a synergistic cell killing effect, suggesting that Gleevec can potentiate the effect of cisplatin on A549 cells. We also showed that the A549 lung cancer cells expresses the platelet derived growth factor receptor alpha, and the inhibitory effects of Gleevec on A549 cells is likely mediated through inhibition of PDGFR alpha phosphorylation. We further tested 33 lung cancer patients' tumor specimens to see the frequency of PDGFR-alpha expression by tissue micro-arrays and immunohistochemistry. We found that 16 of the 18 squamous carcinomas (89%), 11 of the 11 adenocarcinomas (100%), and 4 of the 4 small cell lung cancers (100%) expressed PDGFR-alpha.
Conclusion: These results suggest a potential role of Gleevec as adjuvant therapeutic agent for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.