Concurrent biological targeting therapy of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus with cetuximab and trastuzumab

Masanao Yamazaki, Yoshito Yamashita, Naoshi Kubo, Masakazu Yashiro, Masaichi Ohira, Eiji Ako, Hiroaki Tanaka, Kazuya Muguruma, Tetsuji Sawada, Kosei Hirakawa
Oncology Reports 2012, 28 (1): 49-54
The ERBB proteins are cell membrane tyrosine kinase receptors. Among these receptors, ERBB1 (EGFR or HER1) and ERBB2 (HER2/Neu) have been reported to be the most important in terms of the development and progression of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus (SCC). Thus, targeting of ERBB1 and ERBB2 may become a promising strategy to treat SCC. In the present study, we examined ERBB1 and ERBB2 expression of SCC cell lines (TT, TE2, TE6 and TE10) and tumor samples. In addition, we evaluated the effect of the anti-ERBB1 antibody cetuximab and the anti-ERBB2 antibody trastuzumab for SCC in vitro and in vivo. Biological activities (receptor downregulation, the phosphorylation of MAPK and AKT) induced by the two agents were also investigated. Immunohistochemistry of SCC samples showed that ERBB1 was detected in 84%, while ERBB2 was detected in 30%. RT-PCR analysis revealed that ERBB1 and ERBB2 mRNA were detectable in all four cell lines. MTT cell proliferation analysis showed that cetuximab, but not trastuzumab, inhibited growth in each of the SCC cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. Further, cetuximab and trastuzumab used together produced stronger inhibition of growth compared to cetuximab alone. Cetuximab downregulated ERBB1, but not ERBB2, at the TE6 cell surface. However, neither ERBB1 nor ERBB2 showed any downregulation by trastuzumab at the TE6 cell surface. Cetuximab, not but trastuzumab, inhibited the phosphorylation of MAPK and Akt. When administered in combination, the two agents inhibited Akt phosphorylation to a greater degree compared to treatment with cetuximab alone. In the in vivo study, cetuximab, but not trastuzumab, significantly inhibited the TT tumors. Additionally, the combination of cetuximab with trastuzumab induced a synergistic inhibitory antitumor effect in the TT tumors. In conclusion, combination of cetuximab and trastuzumab revealed a synergistic antitumor effect for SCC in vitro and in vivo. The antitumor effect may be induced by the inhibition of the phosphorylation of Akt. These findings suggest that combination therapy including cetuximab and trastuzumab may be a promising strategy to treat SCC.

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