Tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as erlotinib are commonly used as a therapeutic agent against cancer due to its relatively low side-effect profile and, at times, greater efficacy. However, erlotinib resistance (ER) in non-small cell lung cancer is being recognized as a major problem. Therefore, understanding the mechanism behind ER and developing effective regimens are needed. Autophagy's role in cancer has been controversial and remains unclear. In this study, we examined the effectiveness of low dose erlotinib-cisplatin combination in erlotinib resistant lung adenocarcinoma (ERPC9) cells and the role of autophagy in ER. ERPC9 cells were established from erlotinib sensitive PC9 cells. Appropriate treatments were done over two days and cell survival was quantified with Alamar Blue assay. LC3II and regulatory proteins of autophagy were measured by western blot. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) was utilized to inhibit translation of the protein of interest. In ERPC9 cells, combination treatment induced synergistic cell death and a significant decrease in autophagy. At baseline, ERPC9 cells had a significantly higher LC3II and lower p-mTOR levels compared to PC9 cells. The addition of rapamycin increased resistance and 3-methyladenine sensitized ERPC9 cells, indicating autophagy may be acting as a protective mechanism. Further examination revealed that ERPC9 cells harbored high baseline Atg3 levels. The high basal Atg3 was targeted and significantly lowered with combination treatment. siRNA transfection of Atg3 resulted in the reversal of ER; 42.0% more cells died in erlotinib-alone treatment with transfection compared to non-transfected ERPC9 cells. We reveal a novel role for Atg3 in the promotion of ER as the inhibition of Atg3 translation was able to result in the re-sensitization of ERPC9 cells to erlotinib-alone treatment. Also, we demonstrate that combination erlotinib-cisplatin is an effective treatment against erlotinib resistant cancer by targeting (down-regulating) Atg3 mediated autophagy and induction of apoptotic cell death.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)