Antagonism of EGFR and notch limits resistance to EGFR inhibitors and radiation by decreasing tumor-initiating cell frequency

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Abstract

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) blockade and radiation are efficacious in the treatment of cancer, but resistance is commonly reported. Studies have suggested that dysregulation of Notch signaling and enrichment of the cancer stem cell population underlie these treatment challenges. Our data show that dual targeting of EGFR and Notch2/3 receptors with antibody CT16 not only inhibited signaling mediated by these receptors but also showed a strong anti–stem cell effect both in vitro and in vivo. Treatment with CT16 prevented acquired resistance to EGFR inhibitors and radiation in non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line models and patient-derived xenograft tumors. CT16 also had a superior radiosensitizing impact compared with EGFR inhibitors. CT16 in combination with radiation had a larger antitumor effect than the combination of radiation with EGFR inhibitors or tarextumab. Mechanistically, CT16 treatment inhibits the stem cell–like subpopulation, which has a high mesenchymal gene expression and DNA repair activity, and reduces tumor-initiating cell frequency. This finding highlights the capacity of a combined blockade of EGFR and Notch signaling to augment the response to radiation and suggests that CT16 may achieve clinical efficacy when combined with radiation in NSCLC treatment.

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