Cetuximab-mediated protection from hypoxia-induced cell death: implications for therapy sequence in colorectal cancer

  • Simple Summary: Therapeutic antibodies are an integral part of treatment regimens for metastasized colorectal cancer. In KRAS wildtype tumors both bevacizumab and cetuximab are active. While bevacizumab has previously been shown to induce tumor hypoxia, we here report that EGFR inhibition by cetuximab protects colon cancer cells from hypoxia-induced cell death. This effect appears to be responsible for the inferior efficacy of a treatment sequence of bevacizumab followed by cetuximab versus an inverse sequence that we observed in a colorectal cancer mouse model. It also offers a mechanistic explanation for effects observed in clinical trials such as underadditive or even detrimental effects when combining bevacizumab and cetuximab (CAIRO2 trial) and the superior efficacy of first line cetuximab (FIRE-3 trial) under chemotherapy backbones in colorectal cancer. Abstract: Monoclonal antibodies like cetuximab, targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and bevacizumab, targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), are an integral part of treatment regimens for metastasized colorectal cancer. However, inhibition of the EGFR has been shown to protect human glioma cells from cell death under hypoxic conditions. In colon carcinoma cells, the consequences of EGFR blockade in hypoxia (e.g., induced by bevacizumab) have not been evaluated yet. LIM1215 and SW948 colon carcinoma and LNT-229 glioblastoma cells were treated with cetuximab, PD153035, and erlotinib and analyzed for cell density and viability. The sequential administration of either cetuximab followed by bevacizumab (CET->BEV) or bevacizumab followed by cetuximab (BEV->CET) was investigated in a LIM1215 (KRAS wildtype) and SW948 (KRAS mutant) xenograft mouse model. In vitro, cetuximab protected from hypoxia. In the LIM1215 model, a survival benefit with cetuximab and bevacizumab monotherapy was observed, but only the sequence CET->BEV showed an additional benefit. This effect was confirmed in the SW948 model. Our observations support the hypothesis that bevacizumab modulates the tumor microenvironment (e.g., by inducing hypoxia) where cetuximab could trigger protective effects when administered later on. The sequence CET->BEV therefore seems to be superior as possible mutual adverse effects are bypassed.

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Author:Hans Urban, Gabriele D. MaurerORCiDGND, Anna-Luisa LugerORCiD, Nadja Irene LorenzGND, Benedikt Sauer, Christopher Stroh, Jörg Trojan, Michel Mittelbronn, Joachim Peter SteinbachORCiDGND, Patrick Nikolaus HarterORCiDGND, Michael Wilfried RonellenfitschORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Cancers
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2020/10/20
Date of first Publication:2020/10/20
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/11/16
Tag:cetuximab-bevacizumab therapy sequence; colon carcinoma; epidermal growth factor receptor; hypoxia; vascular endothelial growth factor receptor
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0