A tyrosine kinase inhibitor-induced interferon response positively associates with clinical response in EGFR-mutant lung cancer

NPJ Precis Oncol. 2021 May 17;5(1):41. doi: 10.1038/s41698-021-00181-4.


Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting EGFR-mutant lung cancers promote a range of tumor regression responses to yield variable residual disease, a likely incubator for acquired resistance. Herein, rapid transcriptional responses induced by TKIs early in treatment that associate with the range of patient responses were explored. RNAseq was performed on EGFR mutant cell lines treated in vitro with osimertinib and on tumor biopsies of eight EGFR mutant lung cancer patients before and after 2 weeks of TKI treatment. Data were evaluated for gene expression programs altered upon TKI treatment. Chemokine and cytokine expression were measured by ELISA and quantitative RT-PCR. IκB Kinase (IKK) and JAK-STAT pathway dependence was tested with pharmacologic and molecular inhibitors. Tumor sections were stained for the T-cell marker CD3. Osimertinib stimulated dynamic, yet wide-ranging interferon (IFN) program regulation in EGFR mutant cell lines. IL6 and CXCL10 induction varied markedly among the EGFR mutant cell lines and was sensitive to IKK and JAK-STAT inhibitors. Analysis of matched patient biopsy pairs revealed marked, yet varied enrichment of IFN transcriptional programs, effector immune cell signatures and T-cell content in treated tumors that positively correlated with time to progression in the patients. EGFR-specific TKIs induce wide-ranging IFN response program activation originating within the cancer cell. The strong association of IFN program induction and duration of clinical response indicates that the TKI-induced IFN program instructs variable recruitment and participation of immune cells in the overall therapeutic response.