Targeting the EGFR pathway: An alternative strategy for the treatment of tuberous sclerosis complex?

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2024 Apr;50(2):e12974. doi: 10.1111/nan.12974.


Introduction: Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is caused by variants in TSC1/TSC2, leading to constitutive activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1. Therapy with everolimus has been approved for TSC, but variations in success are frequent. Recently, caudal late interneuron progenitor (CLIP) cells were identified as a common origin of the TSC brain pathologies such as subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGA) and cortical tubers (CT). Further, targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) with afatinib, which is expressed in CLIP cells, reduces cell growth in cerebral TSC organoids. However, investigation of clinical patient-derived data is lacking.

Aims: Observation of EGFR expression in SEGA, CT and focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) 2B human brain specimen and investigation of whether its inhibition could be a potential therapeutic intervention for these patients.

Methods: Brain specimens of 23 SEGAs, 6 CTs, 20 FCD2Bs and 17 controls were analysed via immunohistochemistry to characterise EGFR expression, cell proliferation (via Mib1) and mTOR signalling. In a cell-based assay using primary patient-derived cells (CT n = 1, FCD2B n = 1 and SEGA n = 4), the effects of afatinib and everolimus on cell proliferation and cell viability were observed.

Results: EGFR overexpression was observed in histological sections of SEGA, CT and FCD2B patients. Both everolimus and afatinib decreased the proliferation and viability in primary SEGA, tuber and FCD2B cells.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that EGFR suppression might be an effective alternative treatment option for SEGAs and tubers, as well as other mTOR-associated malformations of cortical development, including FCD2B.

Keywords: EGFR; SEGA; TSC; afatinib; focal cortical dysplasia; tuber; tuberous sclerosis complex.

MeSH terms

  • Afatinib / therapeutic use
  • Astrocytoma* / drug therapy
  • Astrocytoma* / metabolism
  • ErbB Receptors / therapeutic use
  • Everolimus / pharmacology
  • Everolimus / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Tuberous Sclerosis* / metabolism


  • Everolimus
  • Afatinib
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • ErbB Receptors
  • EGFR protein, human