CD133-Positive Cells from Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Show Distinct Sensitivity to Cisplatin and Afatinib

Angela Alama, Rosaria Gangemi, Silvano Ferrini, Gaia Barisione, Anna Maria Orengo, Mauro Truini, Maria Giovanna Dal Bello, Francesco Grossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The standard of care for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) consists in cisplatin-combination chemotherapy. In patients bearing tumors with activating mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), the inhibition of the EGFR intracellular tyrosine kinase can induce up to 80 % response rates. However, both therapeutic strategies will eventually lead to recurrent disease due to the development of drug resistance. The identification of rare cancer stem-like cells able to repopulate the tumor, after failure to standard treatment modalities, has led to characterize these cells as potential therapeutic targets. This article will address the role of the CD133/EpCAM stem cell-related markers and explore cell sensitivity to cisplatin and to the EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor, afatinib. Three human NSCLC cell lines, one wild-type (A549) and two harboring EGFR mutations (H1650 and H1975), as well as 20 NSCLC primary cultures, were grown in non-differentiating culture conditions for stem cell enrichment. Flow-cytometry analyses of CD133 and EpCAM and cell sensitivity to cisplatin and afatinib were performed. Moreover, the expression of activated EGFR was assessed by Western blot. The cell lines and primary cultures grown in non-differentiating culture conditions were enriched with CD133/EpCAM-positive cells and were significantly more resistant to cisplatin and more sensitive to afatinib as compared to the differentiated counterpart. In addition, increased EGFR-phosphorylation in non-differentiated cultures was observed. The present findings suggest that afatinib might be beneficial for patients bearing tumors with constitutively activated EGFR, to target chemo-resistant CD133/EpCAM-positive cancer stem cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalArchivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Afatinib
  • CD133
  • Cisplatin
  • Drug-resistance
  • EpCAM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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