Gastric cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide and infection by Helicobacter pylori is the strongest risk factor. We have reported increased epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) phosphorylation in the H. pylori-induced human carcinogenesis cascade, and association with DNA damage. Our goal was to determine the role of EGFR activation in gastric carcinogenesis.Design
We evaluated gefitinib, a specific EGFR inhibitor, in chemoprevention of H. pylori-induced gastric inflammation and cancer development. Mice with genetically targeted epithelial cell-specific deletion of Egfr (EfgrΔepi mice) were also used.Results
In C57BL/6 mice, gefitinib decreased Cxcl1 and Cxcl2 expression by gastric epithelial cells, myeloperoxidase-positive inflammatory cells in the mucosa and epithelial DNA damage induced by H. pylori infection. Similar reductions in chemokines, inflammatory cells and DNA damage occurred in infected EgfrΔepi versus Egfrfl/fl control mice. In H. pylori-infected transgenic insulin-gastrin (INS-GAS) mice and gerbils, gefitinib treatment markedly reduced dysplasia and carcinoma. Gefitinib blocked H. pylori-induced activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase 1/3 (MAPK1/3) and activator protein 1 in gastric epithelial cells, resulting in inhibition of chemokine synthesis. MAPK1/3 phosphorylation and JUN activation was reduced in gastric tissues from infected wild-type and INS-GAS mice treated with gefitinib and in primary epithelial cells from EfgrΔepi versus Egfrfl/fl mice. Epithelial EGFR activation persisted in humans and mice after H. pylori eradication, and gefitinib reduced gastric carcinoma in INS-GAS mice treated with antibiotics.Conclusions
These findings suggest that epithelial EGFR inhibition represents a potential strategy to prevent development of gastric carcinoma in H. pylori-infected individuals.