Lovastatin inhibits EGFR dimerization and AKT activation in squamous cell carcinoma cells: potential regulation by targeting rho proteins

Oncogene. 2010 Aug 19;29(33):4682-92. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.219. Epub 2010 Jun 21.


We recently showed the ability of lovastatin to inhibit the function of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its downstream signaling of the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/AKT pathway. Combining lovastatin with gefitinib, a potent EGFR inhibitor, induced synergistic cytotoxicity in various tumor-derived cell lines. In this study, lovastatin treatment was found to inhibit ligand-induced EGFR dimerization in squamous cell carcinoma cells and its activation of AKT and its downstream targets 4E-binding protein 1 and S6 kinase 1. This inhibition was associated with global protein translational inhibition shown by a decrease in RNA associated polysome fractions. The effects of lovastatin on EGFR function were reversed by the addition of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, which functions as a protein membrane anchor. Lovastatin treatment induced actin cytoskeletal disorganization and the expression of geranylgeranylated rho family proteins that regulate the actin cytoskeleton, including rhoA. Lovastatin-induced rhoA was inactive as EGF stimulation failed to activate rhoA and inhibition of the rho-associated kinase, a target and mediator of rhoA function, with Y-27632 also showed inhibitory effects on EGFR dimerization. The ability of lovastatin to inhibit EGFR dimerization is a novel exploitable mechanism regulating this therapeutically relevant target. To explore the potential clinical significance of this combination, we evaluated the effect of statin on the overall survival (OS) and disease-specific survival (DSS) of patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer enrolled in the NCIC Clinical Trials Group phase III clinical trials BR21 (EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib versus placebo) and BR18 (carboplatin and paclitaxel with or without the metalloproteinase inhibitor BMS275291). In BR18, use of statin did not affect OS or DSS. In BR21, patients showed a trend for improvement in OS (HR: 0.69, P=0.098) and DSS (HR: 0.62, P=0.048), but there was no statin x treatment interaction effect (P=0.34 and P=0.51 for OS and DSS, respectively).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Drug Interactions
  • Enzyme Activation
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lovastatin / pharmacology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / pharmacology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • rho-Associated Kinases / biosynthesis
  • rho-Associated Kinases / metabolism


  • Amides
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Pyridines
  • Y 27632
  • Lovastatin
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • rho-Associated Kinases
  • geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate