Cooperative inhibitory effect of ZD1839 (Iressa) in combination with trastuzumab (Herceptin) on human breast cancer cell growth

N Normanno, M Campiglio, Luca A De, G Somenzi, M Maiello, F Ciardiello, L Gianni, D S Salomon, S Menard
Annals of Oncology: Official Journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology 2002, 13 (1): 65-72

BACKGROUND: Co-expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and of ErbB-2 is found in a subset of primary human breast cancer.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The antiproliferative effects of anti-EGFR and anti-ErbB-2 agents were evaluated using a monolayer assay. The effects of these agents on the activation of EGFR, ErbB-2, AKT and p42/p44 MAP kinases (MAPK) were investigated by western blot analysis.

RESULTS: We found that both ZD1839 (Iressa), a specific EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, and trastuzumab (Herceptin) (TRA), a humanized anti-ErbB-2 monoclonal antibody, were able to inhibit the growth of SK-Br-3 and BT-474 breast carcinoma cells, which express both EGFR and ErbB-2. Treatment of breast carcinoma cells with a combination of ZD1839 and TRA resulted in a synergistic inhibitory effect. Treatment of SK-Br-3 cells with ZD1839 produced a significant, dose-dependent reduction of the tyrosine phosphorylation of both EGFR and ErbB-2. Phosphorylation of MAPK and AKT were significantly reduced in SK-Br-3 cells following treatment with ZD1839, whereas treatment with TRA produced a reduction of AKT but not MAPK phosphorylation. Finally, treatment with ZD1839, but not with TRA, produced a significant increase in fragmented DNA in breast carcinoma cells. However, a more pronounced increase in the levels of fragmented DNA was observed following combined treatment with ZD1839 and TRA.

CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that combined treatment with drugs that target EGFR and ErbB-2 might result in an efficient inhibition of tumor growth in those breast carcinoma patients whose tumors co-express both receptors.

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