Protein tyrosine kinase 2: a novel therapeutic target to overcome acquired EGFR-TKI resistance in non-small cell lung cancer

Respir Res. 2019 Dec 2;20(1):270. doi: 10.1186/s12931-019-1244-2.


Background: Protein tyrosine kinase 2 (PTK2) expression has been reported in various types of human epithelial cancers including lung cancer; however, the role of PTK2 in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has not been elucidated. We previously reported that pemetrexed-resistant NSCLC cell line PC-9/PEM also acquired EGFR-TKI resistance with constitutive Akt activation, but we could not find a therapeutic target.

Methods: Cell viability in EGFR-mutant NSCLC cell lines was measured by the WST-8 assay. Phosphorylation antibody array assay for receptor tyrosine kinases was performed in PC-9 and PC-9/PEM cell lines. We evaluated the efficacy of EGFR and PTK2 co-inhibition in EGFR-TKI-resistant NSCLC in vitro. Oral defactinib and osimertinib were administered in mice bearing subcutaneous xenografts to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment combination in vivo. Both the PTK2 phosphorylation and the treatment combination efficacy were evaluated in erlotinib-resistant EGFR-mutant NSCLC cell lines.

Results: PTK2 was hyperphosphorylated in PC-9/PEM. Defactinib (PTK2 inhibitor) and PD173074 (FGFR inhibitor) inhibited PTK2 phosphorylation. Combination of PTK2 inhibitor and EGFR-TKI inhibited Akt and induced apoptosis in PC-9/PEM. The combination treatment showed improved in vivo therapeutic efficacy compared to the single-agent treatments. Furthermore, erlotinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines showed PTK2 hyperphosphorylation. PTK2 inhibition in the PTK2 hyperphosphorylated erlotinib-resistant cell lines also recovered EGFR-TKI sensitivity.

Conclusion: PTK2 hyperphosphorylation occurs in various EGFR-TKI-resistant NSCLCs. Combination of PTK2 inhibitor and EGFR-TKI (defactinib and osimertinib) recovered EGFR-TKI sensitivity in the EGFR-TKI-resistant NSCLC. Our study result suggests that this combination therapy may be a viable option to overcome EGFR-TKI resistance in NSCLC.

Keywords: Combined inhibition; Drug resistance; EGFR; PTK2; Tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • ErbB Receptors / drug effects
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pemetrexed / pharmacology*
  • Phosphorylation / genetics
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / drug effects
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / drug effects
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Random Allocation
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / drug effects
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Reference Values
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Pemetrexed
  • Erlotinib Hydrochloride
  • EGFR protein, mouse
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases