Targeting pediatric sarcoma with a bispecific ligand immunotoxin targeting urokinase and epidermal growth factor receptors

Kristy Pilbeam, Hongbo Wang, Elizabeth Taras, Rachel J. Bergerson, Brianna Ettestad, Todd E De For, Antonella M Borgatti, Daniel A Vallera, Michael R. Verneris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Children with high risk sarcoma have a poor prognosis despite surgical resection, irradiation and chemotherapy. Alternative therapies are urgently needed. Urokinasetype plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are surface proteins expressed by some pediatric sarcomas. We show for the first time that a de-immunized bispecific ligand toxin, EGFATFKDEL, directed against EGFR and uPAR, successfully targets pediatric sarcoma. Using flow cytometry, we identified a rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cell line, RH30, that expresses both uPAR and EGFR, and a Ewing sarcoma (EWS) cell line, TC-71, that expresses only uPAR. We tested the differential sensitivity of these two sarcoma cell lines to toxin-induced killing, using both in vitro assays and an in vivo murine model. We show that pediatric sarcomas are highly sensitive to EGFATFKDEL (at subnanomolar concentrations) in vitro. In vivo, tumor growth was significantly attenuated after treatment with EGFTFKDEL, compared to untreated controls, in both RH30 and TC-71 tumor bearing mice. In addition, we found that simultaneously targeting both receptors in a dual positive cell line was more effective than targeting a single receptor or antigen, resulting in a greater tumor response, including complete tumor regression in an animal model of bulky disease. Our findings provide support for further exploration of bispecific targeting of pediatric sarcomas with bispecific ligand toxins, such as EGFATFKDEL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11938-11947
Number of pages10
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the U.S. Public Health Service Grant R01-CA36725 awarded by the NCI and the NIAID, DHHS. It was also supported by a Mayo Partnership Award, the Hyundai Wheels of Hope Award, the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, the Atwater Cancer Drug Development Award.

Publisher Copyright:
© Pilbeam et al.


  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)
  • Ewing's sarcoma
  • Immunotheraoy
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR)


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