Preclinical modeling of EGFR-specific antibody resistance: oncogenic and immune-associated escape mechanisms

Oncogene. 2014 Jun 12;33(24):3129-39. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.288. Epub 2013 Aug 26.


To define the molecular basis of secondary resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-specific antibodies is crucial to increase clinical benefit in patients. The limited access to posttreatment tumor samples constitutes the major barrier to conduct these studies, representing preclinical experimentation as a useful alternative. Anti-EGFR antibody-based therapy has been reported to mediate tumor regression by interrupting oncogenic signals and, more recently, by inducing antitumor immunological responses. However, resistance models have been focused only on tumor escape associated with EGFR blockade, whereas studies describing immune-associated escape mechanisms have not been reported thus far. To address this idea, we modeled resistance induction in D122 metastasis-bearing C57BL/6 mice treated with 7A7 (an anti-murine EGFR antibody). Similarly to patients receiving EGFR-specific antibodies, 7A7 resistance promotion represents an important drawback to successful therapy. Characterization of primary cultures derived from metastasis in 7A7-treated mice revealed a high frequency of tumor variants resistant to in vivo and in vitro antibody treatment. We showed, for the first time, the convergence of alterations in oncogenic and immunological pathways in 7A7-resistant variants. To identify key molecules behind resistance, seven 7A7-resistant variants were screened. HER3 overexpression and PTEN deficiency leading to hyperactivation of protumoral downstream signaling were found in these variants as a consequence of 7A7-mediated EGFR inhibition. Concomitantly, we found a high percentage of resistant variants carrying abnormalities in the constitutive and/or interferon gamma (IFN-γ)-inducible major histocompatibility complex I (MHC-I) expression. A significant decrease in mRNA levels for MHC-I heavy chains, β2-microglogulin and antigen processing machinery genes as well as transcriptional alterations in IFN-γ pathway components were identified as the main mechanisms underlying MHC-I expression defects in 7A7-resistant variants. Notably, these defects have not been previously associated with EGFR-specific antibody resistance, providing novel immunological escape mechanisms. This study has strong implications for the development of new combination strategies to overcome anti-EGFR antibodies refractoriness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Lewis Lung / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Lewis Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Lewis Lung / pathology
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • ErbB Receptors / immunology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Melanoma, Experimental / immunology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / metabolism
  • Melanoma, Experimental / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Interferon-gamma
  • EGFR protein, mouse
  • ErbB Receptors