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FGFR4 increases EGFR oncogenic signaling in lung adenocarcinoma, and their combined inhibition is highly effective.

Lung cancer (Amsterdam, Netherlands) (2019-04-28)
Alvaro Quintanal-Villalonga, Sonia Molina-Pinelo, Patricia Yagüe, Ángela Marrugal, Laura Ojeda-Márquez, Rocío Suarez, Santiago Ponce-Aix, Ana Belén Enguita, Amancio Carnero, Irene Ferrer, Luis Paz-Ares
ABSTRACT

Lung adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately half of lung cancer cases. Twenty to 50% of tumors of this type harbor mutations affecting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression or activity, which can be therapeutically targeted. EGFR inhibitors in this context exhibit high efficacy and are currently used in the clinical setting. However, not all adenocarcinomas harboring EGFR mutations respond to therapy, so predictive biomarkers of therapeutic outcomes, as well as novel therapies sensitizing these tumors to EGFR inhibition, are needed. We performed in vitro gene overexpression/silencing and tumorigenic surrogate assays, as well as in vitro and in vivo combination treatments with Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFR)/EGFR inhibitors. At the clinical level, we determined FGFR4 expression levels in tumors from patients treated with EGFR inhibitors and correlated these with treatment response. We describe a cooperative interaction between EGFR and FGFR4, which results in their reciprocal activation with pro-oncogenic consequences in vitro and in vivo. This cooperation is independent of EGFR activating mutations and increases resistance to different EGFR inhibitors. At the therapeutic level, we provide evidence of the synergistic effects of the combination of EGFR and FGFR inhibitors in high FGFR4-expressing, EGFR-activated tumors in vitro and in vivo. Correlated with these results, we found that patients treated with EGFR inhibitors relapse earlier when their tumors exhibit high FGFR4 expression. We propose a novel predictive biomarker for EGFR-targeted therapy, and a highly efficacious combinatory therapeutic strategy to treat EGFR-dependent; this may may extend the use of appropriate inhibitors beyond EGFR-mutated adenocarcinoma patients.