Leptomycin B reduces primary and acquired resistance of gefitinib in lung cancer cells

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Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) gefitinib has demonstrated dramatic clinical efficacy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. However, its therapeutic efficacy is ultimately limited by the development of acquired drug resistance. The aim of this study was to explore the potential utility of chromosome region maintenance 1 (CRM1) inhibitor leptomycin B (LMB) in combination with gefitinib to overcome primary and acquired gefitinib resistance in NSCLC cells. The combinative effects of gefitinib and LMB were evaluated by MTT and its underlining mechanism was assessed by flow cytometry and Western blot. LMB displayed a synergistic effect on gefitinib-induced cytotoxicity in A549 (IC50: 25.0 ± 2.1 μM of gefitinib + LMB vs. 32.0 ± 2.5 μM of gefitinib alone, p < 0.05). Gefitinib + LMB caused a significantly different cell cycle distribution and signaling pathways involved in EGFR/survivin/p21 compared with gefitinib. A549 cells then were treated with progressively increased concentrations of gefitinib (A549GR) or in combination with LMB (A549GLR) over 10 months to generate gefitinib resistance. IC50 of gefitinib in A549GLR (37.0 ± 2.8 μM) was significantly lower than that in A549GR (53.0 ± 3.0 μM, p < 0.05), which indicates that LMB could reverse gefitinib-induced resistance in A549. Further mechanism investigation revealed that the expression patterns of EGFR pathway and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers in A549, A549GR, and A549GLR were significantly different. In conclusion, LMB at a very low concentration (0.5 nM) combined with gefitinib showed synergistic therapeutic effects and ameliorated the development of gefitinib-induced resistance in lung cancer cells.

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