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The role of MET activation in determining the sensitivity to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Jin Kyung Rho, Yun Jung Choi, Jin Kyung Lee, Baek-Yeol Ryoo, Im Il Na, Sung Hyun Yang, Seung Sook Lee, Cheol Hyeon Kim, Young Do Yoo, Jae Cheol Lee
Molecular Cancer Research: MCR 2009, 7 (10): 1736-43
19808904
The development of resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI) seems almost inevitable, even in patients with lung cancer that initially respond well to EGFR-TKIs. MET amplification was recently found to be a mechanism of escape from the anticancer effect of EGFR inhibitors. In the present study, we investigated the means whereby MET affects sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs in PC-9 cells. Gefitinib- or erlotinib-resistant sublines were established by exposing the parental PC-9 cell line to chronic, repeated treatments with these drugs. These resistant sublines showed more than 100-fold more resistance to gefitinib and erlotinib and acquired cross-resistance to other EGFR-TKIs. The T790M EGFR mutation was found by pyrosequencing, and this seemed to be the cause of drug resistance. Resistant cells also showed MET activation, although gene amplification was not detected. Furthermore, the induction of MET activity was not found to be associated with sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs. Interestingly, increased passage number without exposure to gefitinib or erlotinib caused MET activation, but this did not affect sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs. In addition, hepatocyte growth factor was found to block the ability of EGFR-TKIs to inhibit MET activation. However, sustained MET activation by hepatocyte growth factor did not modulate the cellular effects of gefitinib or erlotinib. Rather, activated MET enhanced migration and invasion abilities. Summarizing, MET activation may be acquired during cancer cell proliferation and enhances migratory and invasive abilities without affecting cellular sensitivity to EGFR-TKIs. Accordingly, the present study suggests that MET activation caused by factors other than MET gene amplification is not a suitable surrogate marker of resistance to EGFR-TKIs.

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