Purpose: Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) show frequent overexpression and hyperactivity in various human malignancies including head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). To examine effects of dual EGFR/FAK inhibition on cellular radiosensitivity of HNSCC cells in a more physiological environment, we employed a previously established laminin-rich extracellular matrix (lrECM) based three-dimensional (3D) cell culture model.
Materials and methods: UTSCC15 and SAS HNSCC cell lines stably transfected with EGFR-CFP or CFP were used. Single or combined EGFR (Cetuximab, siRNA) and FAK (TAE226, siRNA) inhibition were accomplished prior to measuring clonogenic survival and protein expression and phosphorylation. Immunofluorescence enabled visualization of EGFR-CFP and FAK.
Results: Cetuximab resulted in higher radiosensitization in EGFR-CFP overexpressing cell lines than CFP controls. Single EGFR or FAK inhibition mediated radiosensitization, while dual EGFR/FAK targeting further augmented this effect. Despite signaling alterations upon Cetuximab and siRNA knockdown, analysis of protein expression and phosphorylation indicates EGFR and FAK signaling coexistence without obvious overlap.
Conclusions: Combined EGFR/FAK targeting yielded stronger radiosensitization than either approach alone, which might be based on non-overlapping downstream signaling. Whether dual targeting of EGFR and FAK can reasonably be combined with radiotherapy and chemotherapy needs clarification.
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