Estrogen is known to promote proliferation and to activate the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a known estrogen responsive gene in breast cancer. We sought to determine whether the VEGF pathway is also regulated by estrogen in lung cancer cells, and whether combining an inhibitor of the ER pathway with a dual vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)/EGFR inhibitor would show enhanced antitumor effects. Methods: We examined activation of EGFR and expression of VEGF in response to β-estradiol, and the antitumor activity of the multitargeted VEGFR/EGFR/RET inhibitor, vandetanib, when combined with the antiestrogen fulvestrant both in vitro and in vivo. Results: NSCLC cells expressed VEGFR-3 and EGFR. Vandetanib treatment of NSCLC cells resulted in inhibition of EGFR and VEGFR-3 and inhibition of β-estradiol-induced P-MAPK activation, demonstrating that vandetanib blocks β-estradiol-induced EGFR signaling. Treatment with β-estradiol stimulated VEGFA mRNA and protein (p < 0.0001 over baseline), suggesting estrogenic signaling causes heightened VEGFA pathway activation. This estrogenic induction of VEGFA mRNA seems largely dependent on cross-talk with EGFR. Long-term vandetanib treatment also significantly increased ERβ protein expression. The combination of vandetanib with fulvestrant maximally inhibited cell growth compared with single agents (p < 0.0001) and decreased tumor xenograft volume by 64%, compared with 51% for vandetanib (p < 0.05) and 23% for fulvestrant (p < 0.005). Antitumor effects of combination therapy were accompanied by a significant increase in apoptotic cells compared with single agents. Conclusions: Fulvestrant may enhance effects of vandetanib in NSCLC by blocking estrogen-driven activation of the EGFR pathway.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by NCI grant P50CA090440, SPORE in Lung Cancer (to J.M.S.), and in part by the Comprehensive Cancer Center Award P30CA047904.
- Tyrosine kinase inhibitor