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Gefitinib induces lung cancer cell autophagy and apoptosis via blockade of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway

Zhong-Quan Zhao, Zhong-Yang Yu, Jie Li, Xue-Nong Ouyang
Oncology Letters 2016, 12 (1): 63-68
27347100
Gefitinib is a selective inhibitor of the tyrosine kinase epidermal growth factor receptor, which inhibits tumor pathogenesis, metastasis and angiogenesis, as well as promoting apoptosis. Therefore, gefitinib presents an effective drug for the targeted therapy of lung cancer. However, the underlying mechanisms by which gefitinib induces lung cancer cell death remain unclear. To investigate the effects of gefitinib on lung cancer cells and the mechanism of such, the present study analyzed the effect of gefitinib on the autophagy, apoptosis and proliferation of the A549 and A549-gefitinib-resistant (GR) cell lines GR. The regulation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (AKT)/ mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway was also investigated. Acridine orange staining revealed that gefitinib induced autophagy of A549 cells but not A549-GR cells. In addition, gefitinib promoted apoptosis and inhibited proliferation of A549 cells but not A549-GR cells. Furthermore, western blot analysis demonstrated that gefitinib treatment led to the downregulation of PI3K, AKT, pAKT, mTOR and phosphorylated-mTOR protein expression in A549 cells but not A549-GR cells. LY294002 blocked the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway and induced autophagy and apoptosis of A549 cells, however, no synergistic effect was observed following combined treatment with gefitinib and LY294002. In conclusion, the results of the present study indicate that gefitinib promotes autophagy and apoptosis of lung cancer cells via blockade of the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway, which leads to lung cancer cell death.

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