Although the medical treatment of colorectal cancer has evolved greatly in the last years, a significant portion of early-stage patients develops recurrence after therapies. The current clinical trials are directed to evaluate new drug combinations and treatment schedules. By the use of patient-derived or established colon cancer cell lines, we found that the tyrosine kinase receptor HER3 is involved in the mechanisms of resistance to therapies. In agreement, the immunohistochemical analysis of total and phospho-HER3 expression in 185 colorectal cancer specimens revealed a significant correlation with lower disease-free survival. Targeting HER3 by the use of the monoclonal antibody patritumab we found induction of growth arrest in all cell lines. Despite the high efficiency of patritumab in abrogating the HER3-dependent activation of PI3K pathway, the HER2 and EGFR-dependent MAPK pathway is activated as a compensatory mechanism. Interestingly, we found that the MEK-inhibitor trametinib inhibits, as expected, the MAPK pathway but induces the HER3-dependent activation of PI3K pathway. The combined treatment results in the abrogation of both PI3K and MAPK pathways and in a significant reduction of cell proliferation and survival. These data suggest a new strategy of therapy for HER3-overexpressing colon cancers.
- Journal Article