Synergistic antitumor effect of S-1 and the epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor gefitinib in non-small cell lung cancer cell lines: role of gefitinib-induced down-regulation of thymidylate synthase

Takafumi Okabe, Isamu Okamoto, Sayaka Tsukioka, Junji Uchida, Tsutomu Iwasa, Takeshi Yoshida, Erina Hatashita, Yuki Yamada, Taroh Satoh, Kenji Tamura, Masahiro Fukuoka, Kazuhiko Nakagawa
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2008, 7 (3): 599-606
Somatic mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are associated with the therapeutic response to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The response rate to these drugs remains low, however, in NSCLC patients with wild-type EGFR alleles. Combination therapies with EGFR-TKIs and cytotoxic agents are considered a therapeutic option for patients with NSCLC expressing wild-type EGFR. We investigated the antiproliferative effect of the combination of the oral fluorouracil S-1 and the EGFR-TKI gefitinib in NSCLC cells of differing EGFR status. The combination of 5-fluorouracil and gefitinib showed a synergistic antiproliferative effect in vitro in all NSCLC cell lines tested. Combination chemotherapy with S-1 and gefitinib in vivo also had a synergistic antitumor effect on NSCLC xenografts regardless of the absence or presence of EGFR mutations. Gefitinib inhibited the expression of the transcription factor E2F-1, resulting in the down-regulation of thymidylate synthase at the mRNA and protein levels. These observations suggest that gefitinib-induced down-regulation of thymidylate synthase is responsible, at least in part, for the synergistic antitumor effect of combined treatment with S-1 and gefitinib and provide a basis for clinical evaluation of combination chemotherapy with S-1 and EGFR-TKIs in patients with solid tumors.

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