EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition radiosensitizes and induces apoptosis in malignant glioma and childhood ependymoma xenografts

Birgit Geoerger, Nathalie Gaspar, Paule Opolon, Jackie Morizet, Pauline Devanz, Yann Lecluse, Alexander Valent, Ludovic Lacroix, Jacques Grill, Gilles Vassal
International Journal of Cancer. Journal International du Cancer 2008 July 1, 123 (1): 209-16
Malignant gliomas and childhood ependymomas have a high rate of treatment failure. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation has been implicated in the tumorigenesis and radioresistance of many cancers, including brain tumors. Therefore, combining EGFR targeting with irradiation is a potentially attractive therapeutic option. We evaluated the tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib for its antitumor activity and potential to radio-sensitize in vivo in two xenograft models: an EGFR amplified glioma and an EGFR expressing ependymoma, both derived from primary tumors. When administered at 100 mg/kg for 5 consecutive days, gefitinib-induced partial tumor regression in all treated EGFR amplified IGRG88 glioma xenografts. The addition of 1 Gy of irradiation prior to gefitinib administration resulted in 5 complete and 4 partial regressions for the 9 treated tumors as well as a significant tumor growth delay of 33 days for the combined treatment compared to 19 days for each therapy alone, suggesting additive antitumor activity. Tumor regression was associated with inhibition of AKT and MAPK pathways by gefitinib. In contrast, the ependymoma IGREP83 was sensitive to irradiation, but remained resistant to gefitinib. Combined treatment was associated with inhibition of radiation-induced MAPK phosphorylation and significant induction of apoptotic cell death though radiation-induced AKT phosphorylation was maintained. Depending on the scheduling of both therapies, a trend towards superior antitumor activity was observed with combined treatment. Thus, EGFR targeting through tyrosine kinase inhibition appears to be a promising new approach in the treatment of EGFR-driven glioma, particularly in combination with radiation therapy.

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