Resistance to Selective FGFR Inhibitors in FGFR-Driven Urothelial Cancer

Cancer Discov. 2023 Sep 6;13(9):1998-2011. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-22-1441.


Several fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitors are approved or in clinical development for the treatment of FGFR-driven urothelial cancer, and molecular mechanisms of resistance leading to patient relapses have not been fully explored. We identified 21 patients with FGFR-driven urothelial cancer treated with selective FGFR inhibitors and analyzed postprogression tissue and/or circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). We detected single mutations in the FGFR tyrosine kinase domain in seven (33%) patients (FGFR3 N540K, V553L/M, V555L/M, E587Q; FGFR2 L551F) and multiple mutations in one (5%) case (FGFR3 N540K, V555L, and L608V). Using Ba/F3 cells, we defined their spectrum of resistance/sensitivity to multiple selective FGFR inhibitors. Eleven (52%) patients harbored alterations in the PI3K-mTOR pathway (n = 4 TSC1/2, n = 4 PIK3CA, n = 1 TSC1 and PIK3CA, n = 1 NF2, n = 1 PTEN). In patient-derived models, erdafitinib was synergistic with pictilisib in the presence of PIK3CA E545K, whereas erdafitinib-gefitinib combination was able to overcome bypass resistance mediated by EGFR activation.

Significance: In the largest study on the topic thus far, we detected a high frequency of FGFR kinase domain mutations responsible for resistance to FGFR inhibitors in urothelial cancer. Off-target resistance mechanisms involved primarily the PI3K-mTOR pathway. Our findings provide preclinical evidence sustaining combinatorial treatment strategies to overcome bypass resistance. See related commentary by Tripathi et al., p. 1964. This article is featured in Selected Articles from This Issue, p. 1949.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell* / drug therapy
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases