The development of pharmacological and biological inhibitors of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) has changed the treatment paradigm of several neoplastic diseases. However, the occurrence of intrinsic and acquired resistance represents a limit to the efficacy of these drugs even in RTK-addicted cancers. The identification of innovative therapeutic approaches and rationale-based drug combinations remains a primary need to improve patients' outcome. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) at the cell surface and in the extracellular matrix bind to and modulate the biological activity of a great number of heparan sulfate (HS) binding proteins. The participation of HSPGs as accessory molecules in the growth factor-receptor interactions and mechanism of activation of several RTKs provides the basis for developing alternative therapeutic strategies based on targeting HSPGs by antibodies or HS mimetics to interfere with the aberrant oncogenic signaling implicated in the pathobiology of several tumors. Here, we focus on the FGF-FGFR-HSPG and HGF-Met-HSPG axes as paradigmatic examples of the multiple-level interconnections between RTKs and HSPGs influencing cell signaling, gene expression, drug sensitivity, and promoting a permissive microenvironment for tumor growth and progression. In these reciprocal regulations, the HS degrading enzymes heparanase and endosulfatases play key roles contributing to the high structural complexity and heterogeneity of HS chains as well as to the specificity of their interaction with proteins. Actually, heparanase and endosulfatases represent, in turn, promising therapeutic targets. We also report some studies describing the effects of FGFR and Met inhibitors on the expression of genes encoding HSPGs and related enzymes, and discuss about the potential impact of these effects on drug response. Finally, we argue about the need of in-depth investigation of the role of HSPGs and their modifying enzymes in specific tumor pathologies to exploit the opportunity of combination treatments including HS mimetics or HSPG directed antibodies to improve efficacy of RTK inhibitors and overcome drug resistance.
|Publication status||Published - Aug 1 2020|