ErbB3, a member of the ErbB family receptors, has a key role in the development and progression of several cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and in the establishment of resistance to therapies, leading to the development of anti-ErbB3 therapies.In this study we demonstrated, in a set of malignant pleural effusion-derived cultures of NSCLC, the synergistic antitumor effect of a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi), such as vorinostat or valproic acid (VPA), in combination with the anti-ErbB3 monoclonal antibody (MoAb) A3. Synergistic interaction was observed in 2D and in 3D cultures conditions, both in fully epithelial cells expressing all ErbB receptors, and in cells that had undergone epithelial to mesenchymal transition and expressed low levels of ErbB3. We provided evidences suggesting that differential modulation of ErbB receptors by vorinostat or VPA, also at low doses corresponding to plasma levels easily reached in treated patients, is responsible for the observed synergism. In details, we showed in epithelial cells that both vorinostat and VPA induced time- and dose-dependent down-regulation of all three ErbB receptors and of downstream signaling. On the contrary, in A3-resistant mesenchymal cells, we observed time- and dose-dependent increase of mRNA and protein levels as well as surface expression of ErbB3, paralleled by down-regulation of EGFR and ErbB2. Our results suggest that the combination of a HDACi plus an anti-ErbB3 MoAb represents a viable strategy that warrants further evaluation for the treatment of NSCLC patients.
Keywords: ErbB3; HDAC inhibitor; NSCLC; primary tumor cultures; valproic acid.