Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibodies (mAb) are used widely to treat metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients, but it is now clear that patients harboring K-ras mutation are resistant to EGFR mAbs such as cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix). For this reason, current recommendations for patient care involve diagnosing the K-ras mutational status of patients prior to EGFR mAb therapy. In this study, we investigated the ability of two MEK inhibitors currently in clinical trials, AS703026 and AZD6244, to address the challenge posed by the resistance of K-ras mutated colorectal cancers to EGFR mAb. AS703026 and AZD6244 were tested in various cell-based assays and tumor xenograft studies, focusing on isogenic human colorectal tumor cell lines that expressed only WT or mutant K-Ras (D-WT or D-MUT). The EGFR mAb cetuximab inhibited the Ras-ERK pathway and proliferation of D-WT cells in vitro and in vivo, but it did not inhibit proliferation of D-MUT cells in either setting. In contrast, AS703026 and AZD6244 effectively inhibited the growth of D-MUT cells in vitro and in vivo by specific inhibition of the key MEK downstream target kinase ERK. Inhibition of MEK by AS703026 or AZD6244 also suppressed cetuximab-resistant colorectal cancer cells attributed to K-ras mutation both in vitro and in vivo. Our findings offer proof-of-concept for the use of MEK inhibitors as an effective therapy in K-ras mutated CRC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research