Oncotarget 2015 Jul;6(19):16902-11
Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche, Orali e Biotecnologiche, University "G. d'Annunzio" Chieti-Pescara, Centro Studi sull'Invecchiamento, Ce.S.I., Chieti, Italy.
Approximately 5-10% of metastatic colorectal cancers harbor a BRAF-V600E mutation, which is correlated with resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies and worse clinical outcome. Vice versa, targeted inhibition of BRAF-V600E with the selective inhibitor PLX 4032 (Vemurafenib) is severely limited due to feedback re-activation of EGFR in these tumors. Mounting evidence indicates that upregulation of the ErbB-3 signaling axis may occur in response to several targeted therapeutics, including Vemurafenib, and NRG-1β-dependent re-activation of the PI3K/AKT survival pathway has been associated with therapy resistance.Here we show that colon CSCs express, next to EGFR and ErbB-2, also significant amounts of ErbB-3 on their membrane. This expression is functional as NRG-1β strongly induces AKT/PKB and ERK phosphorylation, cell proliferation, clonogenic growth and promotes resistance to Vemurafenib in BRAF-V600E mutant colon CSCs. This resistance was completely dependent on ErbB-3 expression, as evidenced by knockdown of ErbB-3. More importantly, resistance could be alleviated with therapeutic antibody blocking ErbB-3 activation, which impaired NRG-1β-driven AKT/PKB and ERK activation, clonogenic growth in vitro and tumor growth in xenograft models. In conclusion, our findings suggest that targeting ErbB-3 receptors could represent an effective therapeutic approach in BRAF-V600E mutant colon cancer.