Combination treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is becoming more popular due to the anticipation that it may be more effective than single drug treatment. In addition, there are efforts to genetically screen patients for specific mutations in light of attempting to administer specific anticancer agents that are most effective. In this study, we evaluate the anticancer and anti-angiogenic effects of low dose erlotinib-cisplatin combination in NSCLC in vitro and in vivo. In NSCLC cells harboring epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, combination erlotinib-cisplatin treatment led to synergistic cell death, but there was minimal efficacy in NSCLC cells with wild-type EGFR. In xenograft models, combination treatment also demonstrated greater inhibition of tumor growth compared to individual treatment. The anti-tumor effect observed was secondary to the targeting of angiogenesis, evidenced by decreased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels and decreased levels of CD31 and microvessel density. Combination treatment targets angiogenesis through down-regulation of the c-MYC/hypoxia inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1α) pathway. In fact, cell lines with EGFR exon 19 deletions expressed high basal levels of c-MYC and HIF-1α and correlate with robust responses to combination treatment. These results suggest that low dose erlotinib-cisplatin combination exhibits its anti-tumor activity by targeting angiogenesis through the modulation of the c-MYC/HIF-1α/VEGF pathway in NSCLC with EGFR exon 19 deletions. These findings may have significant clinical implications in patients with tumors harboring EGFR exon 19 deletions as they may be particularly sensitive to this regimen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research