The inhibition of ErbB2 by the use of human antibodies can be a valuable strategy for the treatment of breast and gastric cancer. Trastuzumab, a humanized anti-ErbB2 antibody in clinical use, is effective but can engender resistance as well as cardiotoxicity. ImmunoRNases, made up of a human anti-ErbB2 scFv and human pancreatic ribonucleases (HP-RNases), have been engineered to overcome the limits of other immunotoxins, such as immunogenicity and nonspecific toxicity. Here, we report that a novel anti-ErbB2 immunoRNase, called Erb-HPDDADD-RNase, obtained by fusing Erbicin, a human ErbB2-directed scFv, with an HP-RNase variant that resists the cytosolic inhibitor protein, binds with high affinity to a panel of ErbB2-positive gastric tumor cells and inhibits their growth more than does the parental immunoRNase, which is not resistant to the inhibitor. Moreover, Erb-HP-DDADD-RNase is endowed with antiproliferative activity for trastuzumab-resistant cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo that is more potent than that of the parental immunoRNase. Importantly, Erb-HP-DDADD-RNase does not show cardiotoxic effects in vitro on human cardiomyocytes and does not impair cardiac function in a mouse model. Thus, Erb-HP-DDADD-RNase could fulfil the therapeutic need of cancer patients ineligible for trastuzumab treatment due to primary or acquired trastuzumab resistance or to cardiac dysfunction.
Keywords: ErbB2; breast cancer; cardiotoxicity; gastric cancer; trastuzumab-resistance.