Mechanism of Resistance and Novel Targets Mediating Resistance to EGFR and c-Met Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 24;10(8):e0136155. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136155. eCollection 2015.


Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) against EGFR and c-Met are initially effective when administered individually or in combination to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. However, the overall efficacies of TKIs are limited due to the development of drug resistance. Therefore, it is important to elucidate mechanisms of EGFR and c-Met TKI resistance in order to develop more effective therapies. Model NSCLC cell lines H1975 and H2170 were used to study the similarities and differences in mechanisms of EGFR/c-Met TKI resistance. H1975 cells are positive for the T790M EGFR mutation, which confers resistance to current EGFR TKI therapies, while H2170 cells are EGFR wild-type. Previously, H2170 cells were made resistant to the EGFR TKI erlotinib and the c-Met TKI SU11274 by exposure to progressively increasing concentrations of TKIs. In H2170 and H1975 TKI-resistant cells, key Wnt and mTOR proteins were found to be differentially modulated. Wnt signaling transducer, active β-catenin was upregulated in TKI-resistant H2170 cells when compared to parental cells. GATA-6, a transcriptional activator of Wnt, was also found to be upregulated in resistant H2170 cells. In H2170 erlotinib resistant cells, upregulation of inactive GSK3β (p-GSK3β) was observed, indicating activation of Wnt and mTOR pathways which are otherwise inhibited by its active form. However, in H1975 cells, Wnt modulators such as active β-catenin, GATA-6 and p-GSK3β were downregulated. Additional results from MTT cell viability assays demonstrated that H1975 cell proliferation was not significantly decreased after Wnt inhibition by XAV939, but combination treatment with everolimus (mTOR inhibitor) and erlotinib resulted in synergistic cell growth inhibition. Thus, in H2170 cells and H1975 cells, simultaneous inhibition of key Wnt or mTOR pathway proteins in addition to EGFR and c-Met may be a promising strategy for overcoming EGFR and c-Met TKI resistance in NSCLC patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Drug Synergism
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride / administration & dosage
  • GATA6 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis
  • GATA6 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / biosynthesis
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / genetics*
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met / genetics*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / biosynthesis
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / drug effects


  • GATA6 Transcription Factor
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 3-Ring
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • XAV939
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met
  • GSK3B protein, human
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3