The Cancer Genome Atlas project identified HER2 somatic mutations and gene amplification in 7% of patients with colorectal cancer. Introduction of the HER2 mutations S310F, L755S, V777L, V842I, and L866M into colon epithelial cells increased signaling pathways and anchorage-independent cell growth, indicating that they are activating mutations. Introduction of these HER2 activating mutations into colorectal cancer cell lines produced resistance to cetuximab and panitumumab by sustaining MAPK phosphorylation. HER2 mutants are potently inhibited by low nanomolar doses of the irreversible tyrosine kinase inhibitors neratinib and afatinib. HER2 gene sequencing of 48 cetuximab-resistant, quadruple (KRAS, NRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA) wild-type (WT) colorectal cancer patient-derived xenografts (PDX) identified 4 PDXs with HER2 mutations. HER2- targeted therapies were tested on two PDXs. Treatment with a single HER2-targeted drug (trastuzumab, neratinib, or lapatinib) delayed tumor growth, but dual HER2-targeted therapy with trastuzumab plus tyrosine kinase inhibitors produced regression of these HER2-mutated PDXs. SIGNIFICANCE: HER2 activating mutations cause EGFR antibody resistance in colorectal cell lines, and PDXs with HER2 mutations show durable tumor regression when treated with dual HER2-targeted therapy. These data provide a strong preclinical rationale for clinical trials targeting HER2 activating mutations in metastatic colorectal cancer.
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