Tumor microenvironment confers mTOR inhibitor resistance in invasive intestinal adenocarcinoma

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Mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1) is frequently activated in cancers and can be counteracted with the clinical mTORC1 inhibitors everolimus and temsirolimus. Although mTORC1 and dual mTORC1/2 inhibitors are currently under development to treat various malignancies, the emergence of drug resistance has proven to be a major complication. Using the cis-Apc/Smad4 mouse model of locally invasive intestinal adenocarcinoma, we show that administration of everolimus or the dual mTORC1/2 inhibitor AZD8055 significantly reduces the growth of intestinal tumors. In contrast, although everolimus treatment at earlier phase of tumor progression delayed invasion of the tumors, both inhibitors exhibited little effect on blocking invasion of the tumors when administered later in their progression. Biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses revealed that treatment of cis-Apc/Smad4 mice with everolimus or AZD8055 induced marked increases in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and MEK/ERK signaling in tumor epithelial and stromal cells, respectively. Notably, co-administration of AZD8055 and the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib or the MEK inhibitor trametinib was sufficient to suppress tumor invasion in cis-Apc/Smad4 mice. These data indicate that mTOR inhibitor resistance in invasive intestinal tumors involves feedback signaling from both cancer epithelial and stromal cells, highlighting the role of tumor microenvironment in drug resistance, and support that simultaneous inhibition of mTOR and EGFR or MEK may be more effective in treating colon cancer.

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