TROP2 expression and SN38 antitumor activity in malignant pleural mesothelioma cells provide a rationale for antibody-drug conjugate therapy

Lung Cancer. 2023 Apr:178:237-246. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2023.03.003. Epub 2023 Mar 8.


Objectives: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive cancer which at large is not amenable to curative surgery. Despite the recent approval of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy, the response rates and survival following systemic therapy is still limited. Sacituzumab govitecan is an antibody-drug conjugate targeting the topoisomerase I inhibitor SN38 to trophoblast cell-surface antigen 2 (TROP-2)-positive cells. Here we have explored the therapeutic potential of sacituzumab govitecan in MPM models.

Materials and methods: TROP2 expression was analyzed in a panel of two well established and 15 pleural effusion derived novel lines by RT-QPCR and immunoblotting, TROP2 membrane-localization was studied by flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Cultured mesothelial cells and pneumothorax pleura served as controls. The sensitivity of MPM cell lines to irinotecan and SN38 was studied using cell viability, cell cycle, apoptosis and DNA damage assays. Drug sensitivity of cell lines was correlated with RNA expression of DNA repair genes. Drug sensitivity was defined as an IC50 below 5 nM in the cell viability assay.

Results: TROP2 expression was detected at RNA and protein level in 6 of the 17 MPM cell lines, but not in in cultured mesothelial control cells or in the mesothelial layer of the pleura. TROP2 was detectable on the cell membrane in 5 MPM lines and was present in the nucleus in 6 cell models. Ten of 17 MPM cell lines showed sensitivity to SN38 treatment, among those 4 expressed TROP2. High AURKA RNA expression and high proliferation rate correlated with sensitivity to SN38-induced cell death, DNA damage response, cell cycle arrest and cell death. Sacituzumab govitecan treatment effectively induced cell cycle arrest and cell death in TROP2-positive MPM cells.

Conclusion: TROP2 expression and sensitivity to SN38 in MPM cell lines support biomarker-selected clinical exploration of sacituzumab govitecan in patients with MPM.

Keywords: AURKA; Malignant pleural mesothelioma; SN38; Sacituzumab govitecan; TROP2.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Immunoconjugates* / pharmacology
  • Immunoconjugates* / therapeutic use
  • Irinotecan / pharmacology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mesothelioma* / drug therapy
  • Mesothelioma* / genetics
  • Mesothelioma* / metabolism
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant* / drug therapy
  • Pleural Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pleural Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Pleural Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • RNA


  • Immunoconjugates
  • RNA
  • TACSTD2 protein, human
  • Irinotecan