Combining lapatinib (GW572016), a small molecule inhibitor of ErbB1 and ErbB2 tyrosine kinases, with therapeutic anti-ErbB2 antibodies enhances apoptosis of ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells

Oncogene. 2005 Sep 15;24(41):6213-21. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208774.


Antibodies and small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors targeting ErbB2 exhibit distinct, noncross resistant mechanisms of action. Here, apoptosis of ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells was enhanced by combining lapatinib, an inhibitor of ErbB1 and ErbB2 tyrosine kinases, with anti-ErbB2 antibodies, including (i) trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody, and (ii) pAb, rabbit polyclonal antisera generated by vaccination with a human ErbB2 fusion protein. Treating ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cell lines with a relatively low concentration of lapatinib alone resulted in a minimal increase in tumor cell apoptosis with an associated decrease in steady-state protein levels of p-ErbB2, p-Akt, p-Erk1/2, and notably survivin, compared to baseline. Exposure to pAb alone reduced total ErbB2 protein, disrupting ErbB3 transactivation, leading to a marked inhibition of p-Akt; however, survivin protein levels remained unchanged and apoptosis only increased slightly. Treatment with trastuzumab alone had relatively little effect on survivin and apoptosis was unaffected. Combining lapatinib with either pAb or trastuzumab markedly downregulated survivin protein and enhanced tumor cell apoptosis. The association between the inhibition of survivin and enhanced apoptosis following the combination of ErbB2-targeted therapies provides a biological effect in order to identify therapeutic strategies that promote tumor cell apoptosis and might improve clinical response.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lapatinib
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Quinazolines
  • Lapatinib
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2