Co-activation of STAT3 and YES-Associated Protein 1 (YAP1) Pathway in EGFR-Mutant NSCLC

Imane Chaib, Niki Karachaliou, Sara Pilotto, Jordi Codony Servat, Xueting Cai, Xuefei Li, Ana Drozdowskyj, Carles Codony Servat, Jie Yang, Chunping Hu, Andres Felipe Cardona, Guillermo Lopez Vivanco, Alain Vergnenegre, Jose Miguel Sanchez, Mariano Provencio, Filipo de Marinis, Antonio Passaro, Enric Carcereny, Noemi Reguart, Charo Garcia Campelo, Christina Teixido, Isabella Sperduti, Sonia Rodriguez, Chiara Lazzari, Alberto Verlicchi, Itziar de Aguirre, Cristina Queralt, Jia Wei, Roger Estrada, Raimon Puig de la Bellacasa, Jose Luis Ramirez, Kirstine Jacobson, Henrik J Ditzel, Mariacarmela Santarpia, Santiago Viteri, Migual Angel Molina, Caicun Zhou, Peng Cao, Patrick C Ma, Trever G Bivona, Rafael Rosell
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2017 September 1, 109 (9)

Background: The efficacy of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is limited by adaptive activation of cell survival signals. We hypothesized that both signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and Src-YES-associated protein 1 (YAP1) signaling are dually activated during EGFR TKI treatment to limit therapeutic response.

Methods: We used MTT and clonogenic assays, immunoblotting, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the efficacy of EGFR TKI alone and in combination with STAT3 and Src inhibition in three EGFR-mutant NSCLC cell lines. The Chou-Talalay method was used for the quantitative determination of drug interaction. We examined tumor growth inhibition in one EGFR-mutant NSCLC xenograft model (n = 4 mice per group). STAT3 and YAP1 expression was evaluated in tumors from 119 EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients (64 in an initial cohort and 55 in a validation cohort) by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses were used to assess the correlation between survival and gene expression. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: We discovered that lung cancer cells survive initial EGFR inhibitor treatment through activation of not only STAT3 but also Src-YAP1 signaling. Cotargeting EGFR, STAT3, and Src was synergistic in two EGFR-mutant NSCLC cell lines with a combination index of 0.59 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.54 to 0.63) for the PC-9 and 0.59 (95% CI = 0.54 to 0.63) for the H1975 cell line. High expression of STAT3 or YAP1 predicted worse progression-free survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 3.02, 95% CI = 1.54 to 5.93, P = .001, and HR = 2.57, 95% CI = 1.30 to 5.09, P = .007, respectively) in an initial cohort of 64 EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients treated with firstline EGFR TKIs. Similar results were observed in a validation cohort.

Conclusions: Our study uncovers a coordinated signaling network centered on both STAT3 and Src-YAP signaling that limits targeted therapy response in lung cancer and identifies an unforeseen rational upfront polytherapy strategy to minimize residual disease and enhance clinical outcomes.

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