This study aimed to develop rational combinations of targeted agents against biliary and pancreatic cancers. To this end, we compared the global gene expression profile of biliary cancer cell lines with different degrees of sensibility to the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors gefitinib and erlotinib using the Affymetrix U133A microarray platform. A set of 32 genes, including genes involved in signal transduction pathways, cell cycle regulation, and angiogenesis, was highly overexpressed in resistant cells. Five of these genes encoded proteins in the Ras/Raf/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, a finding that was confirmed by Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Gefitinib failed to inhibit the MAPK pathway in resistant cell lines. Based on these data, we explored the activity of dual treatment with gefitinib in combination with CI-1040, a MAPK inhibitor. This strategy effectively resulted in inhibition of the MAPK signaling pathway and exerted antitumor effects in vitro and in vivo in tumors resistant to each of the agents alone. To further confirm these results, we tested the combined treatment in four tumor xenografts generated from patients with resected pancreatic cancer. Combined treatment was more effective than either single agent alone in this model. This study illustrates the value of global analysis of gene expression to rationally design combinations of mechanistic-based drugs. In addition, the data support the efficacy of combined epidermal growth factor receptor and MAPK inhibitors in biliary and pancreatic cancers, providing the basis to test this combination in the clinic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research