Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) arising in upper parts of the aerodigestive tract are among the leading causes of death worldwide. EGFR has been found to play an essential role in driving the malignancy of SCC of the upper aerodigestive tract (SCCUAT), but, despite this, clinical results using a range of different EGFR-targeted agents have been disappointing. Cetuximab is currently the only EGFR-targeted agent approved by the FDA for treatment of SCCUAT. However, intrinsic and acquired cetuximab resistance is a major problem for effective therapy. Thus, a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for cetuximab resistance is valuable for development of the next generation of antibody therapeutics. In order to better understand the underlying mechanisms of cetuximab resistance in SCCUAT, we established from cetuximab-sensitive models cell lines with acquired resistance to cetuximab by continuous selective pressure in vitro and in vivo Our results show that resistant clones maintain partial dependency on EGFR and that receptor tyrosine kinase plasticity mediated by HER3 and IGF1R plays an essential role. A multitarget mAb mixture against EGFR, HER3, and IGF1R was able to overcome cetuximab resistance in vitro To our surprise, these findings could be extended to include SCCUAT cell lines with intrinsic resistance to cetuximab, suggesting that the triad consisting of EGFR, HER3, and IGF1R plays a key role in SCCUAT. Our results thus provide a rationale for simultaneous targeting of EGFR, HER3, and IGF1R in SCCUAT. Mol Cancer Ther; 15(7); 1614-26. ©2016 AACR.
©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.