Mimicking the BIM BH3 domain overcomes resistance to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors in EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer

Jinjing Xia, Hao Bai, Bo Yan, Rong Li, Minhua Shao, Liwen Xiong, Baohui Han
Oncotarget 2017 December 12, 8 (65): 108522-108533
Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR TKIs) are widely applied to treat EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). BIM is a BH3 domain-containing protein encoded by BCL2L11. Some EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients showing BIM deletion polymorphism are resistant to EGFR TKIs. We retrospectively investigated BIM deletion polymorphism in NSCLC patients, its correlation with EGFR TKI (erlotinib) resistance, and the mechanism underlying the drug resistance. Among 245 EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients examined, BIM deletion polymorphism was detected in 43 (12.24%). Median progression-free and overall survival was markedly shorter in patients with BIM deletion polymorphism than with BIM wide-type. Moreover, NSCLC cells expressing EGFR-mutant harboring BIM polymorphism were more resistant to erlotinib-induced apoptosis than BIM wide-type cells. However, combined use of erlotinib and the BH3-mimetic ABT-737 up-regulated BIM expression and overcame erlotinib resistance in EGFR-mutant NSCLC cells harboring BIM deletion polymorphism. In vivo , erlotinib suppressed growth of BIM wide-type NSCLC cell xenographs by inducing apoptosis. Combined with ABT-737, erlotinib also suppressed NSCLC xenographs expressing EGFR-mutant harboring BIM deletion polymorphism. These results indicate that BIM polymorphism is closely related to a poor clinical response to EGFR TKIs in EGFR-mutant NSCLC patients, and that the BH3-mimetic ABT-737 restores BIM functionality and EGFR-TKI sensitivity.

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