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Gefitinib-Sensitizing EGFR Mutations in Lung Cancer Activate Anti-Apoptotic Pathways

Science  20 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5687, pp. 1163-1167
DOI: 10.1126/science.1101637

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Abstract

Gefitinib (Iressa, Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and induces dramatic clinical responses in nonsmall cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) with activating mutations within the EGFR kinase domain. We report that these mutant EGFRs selectively activate Akt and signal transduction and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling pathways, which promote cell survival, but have no effect on extracellular signal–regulated kinase signaling, which induces proliferation. NSCLC cells expressing mutant EGFRs underwent extensive apoptosis after small interfering RNA–mediated knockdown of the mutant EGFR or treatment with pharmacological inhibitors of Akt and STAT signaling and were relatively resistant to apoptosis induced by conventional chemotherapeutic drugs. Thus, mutant EGFRs selectively transduce survival signals on which NSCLCs become dependent; inhibition of those signals by gefitinib may contribute to the drug's efficacy.

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