Biomarker-guided sequential targeted therapies to overcome therapy resistance in rapidly evolving highly aggressive mammary tumors
Nature Publising Group
542 - 559
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Combinatorial targeted therapies are more effective in treating cancer by blocking by-pass mechanisms or inducing synthetic lethality. However, their clinical application is hampered by resistance and toxicity. To meet this important challenge, we developed and tested a novel concept of biomarker-guided sequential applications of various targeted therapies using ErbB2-overexpressing/PTEN-low, highly aggressive breast cancer as our model. Strikingly, sustained activation of ErbB2 and downstream pathways drives trastuzumab resistance in both PTEN-low/trastuzumab-resistant breast cancers from patients and mammary tumors with intratumoral heterogeneity from genetically-engineered mice. Although lapatinib initially inhibited trastuzumab-resistant mouse tumors, tumors by-passed the inhibition by activating the PI3K/mTOR signaling network as shown by the quantitative protein arrays. Interestingly, activation of the mTOR pathway was also observed in neoadjuvant lapatinib-treated patients manifesting lapatinib resistance. Trastuzumab + lapatinib resistance was effectively overcome by sequential application of a PI3K/mTOR dual kinase inhibitor (BEZ235) with no significant toxicity. However, our p-RTK array analysis demonstrated that BEZ235 treatment led to increased ErbB2 expression and phosphorylation in genetically-engineered mouse tumors and in 3-D, but not 2-D, culture, leading to BEZ235 resistance. Mechanistically, we identified ErbB2 protein stabilization and activation as a novel mechanism of BEZ235 resistance, which was reversed by subsequent treatment with lapatinib + BEZ235 combination. Remarkably, this sequential application of targeted therapies guided by biomarker changes in the tumors rapidly evolving resistance doubled the life-span of mice bearing exceedingly aggressive tumors. This fundamentally novel approach of using targeted therapies in a sequential order can effectively target and reprogram the signaling networks in cancers evolving resistance during treatment.