Antitumor effects of ZD6474, a small molecule vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, with additional activity against epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase

Fortunato Ciardiello, Rosa Caputo, Vincenzo Damiano, Roberta Caputo, Teresa Troiani, Donatella Vitagliano, Francesca Carlomagno, Bianca Maria Veneziani, Gabriella Fontanini, A Raffaele Bianco, Giampaolo Tortora
Clinical Cancer Research 2003, 9 (4): 1546-56

PURPOSE: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a major mitogen for endothelial cells and enhances vascular permeability. Enhanced VEGF secretion is found in human cancers and correlates with increased tumor neovascularization. ZD6474 is a p.o. bioavailable, VEGF flk-1/KDR receptor (VEGFR-2) tyrosine kinase inhibitor with antitumor activity in many human cancer xenografts and is currently in Phase I clinical development.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We tested the effects of ZD6474 on EGFR phosphorylation in cell expressing functional epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and the antiproliferative and the proapoptotic activity of ZD6474 alone or in combination taxanes in human cancer cell lines with functional EGFR but lacking VEGFR-2. The antitumor activity of this drug was also tested in nude mice bearing established GEO colon cancer xenografts.

RESULTS: ZD6474 causes a dose-dependent inhibition of EGFR phosphorylation in mouse NIH-EGFR fibroblasts and human MCF-10A ras breast cancer cells, two cell lines that overexpress the human EGFR. ZD6474 treatment resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of soft agar growth in seven human cell lines (breast, colon, gastric, and ovarian) with functional EGFR but lacking VEGFR-2. A dose-dependent supra-additive effect in growth inhibition and in apoptosis in vitro was observed by the combined treatment with ZD6474 and paclitaxel or docetaxel. ZD6474 treatment of nude mice bearing palpable GEO colon cancer xenografts (which are sensitive to inhibition of EGFR signaling) induced dose-dependent tumor growth inhibition. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed a significant dose-dependent reduction of neoangiogenesis. The antitumor activity of ZD6474 in GEO tumor xenografts was also found to be enhanced when combined with paclitaxel. Tumor regression was observed in all mice after treatment with ZD6474 plus paclitaxel, and it was accompanied by a significant potentiation in inhibition of angiogenesis. Six of 20 mice had no histological evidence of tumors after treatment with ZD6474 plus paclitaxel.

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that in addition to inhibiting endothelial cell proliferation by blocking VEGF-induced signaling, ZD6474 may also be able to inhibit cancer cell growth by blocking EGFR autocrine signaling. These results provide also a rationale for the clinical evaluation of ZD6474 combined with taxanes in cancer patients.

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