The Yes-associated protein (YAP) is a transcriptional co-activator upregulating genes that promote cell growth and inhibit apoptosis. The main dysregulation of the Hippo pathway in tumors is due to YAP overexpression, promoting epithelial to mesenchymal transition, cell transformation, and increased metastatic ability. Moreover, it has recently been shown that YAP plays a role in sustaining resistance to targeted therapies as well. In our work, we evaluated the role of YAP in acquired resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors in lung cancer. In EGFR-addicted lung cancer cell lines (HCC4006 and HCC827) rendered resistant to several EGFR inhibitors, we observed that resistance was associated to YAP activation. Indeed, YAP silencing impaired the maintenance of resistance, while YAP overexpression decreased the responsiveness to EGFR inhibitors in sensitive parental cells. In our models, we identified the AXL tyrosine kinase receptor as the main YAP downstream effector responsible for sustaining YAP-driven resistance: in fact, AXL expression was YAP dependent, and pharmacological or genetic AXL inhibition restored the sensitivity of resistant cells to the anti-EGFR drugs. Notably, YAP overactivation and AXL overexpression were identified in a lung cancer patient upon acquisition of resistance to EGFR TKIs, highlighting the clinical relevance of our in vitro results. The reported data demonstrate that YAP and its downstream target AXL play a crucial role in resistance to EGFR TKIs and suggest that a combined inhibition of EGFR and the YAP/AXL axis could be a good therapeutic option in selected NSCLC patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research