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Combined treatment with metformin and gefitinib overcomes primary resistance to EGFR-TKIs with EGFR mutation via targeting IGF-1R signaling pathway

Authors Pan YH, Jiao L, Lin CY, Lu CH, Li L, Chen HY, Wang YB, He Y

Received 28 February 2018

Accepted for publication 20 May 2018

Published 20 August 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 75—86


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Doris Benbrook

Yong-hong Pan, Lin Jiao, Cai-yu Lin, Cong-hua Lu, Li Li, Heng-yi Chen, Yu-bo Wang, Yong He

Department of Respiratory Disease, Daping Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400042, China

Aim: Although EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have shown dramatic effects against sensitizing EGFR mutations in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), ~20%–30% of NSCLC patients with EGFR-sensitive mutation exhibit intrinsic resistance to EGFR-TKIs. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the enhanced antitumor effect of metformin (Met), a biguanide drug, in combination with gefitinib (Gef) in primary resistant human lung cancer cells and the associated molecular mechanism.
Experimental design: H1975 cell line was treated with Met and/or Gef to examine the inhibition of cell growth and potential mechanism of action by using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT), Ki67 incorporation assay, flow cytometry analysis, small interfering RNA technology, Western blot analysis and xenograft implantation.
Results: Insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF-1R) signaling pathway was markedly activated in EGFR-TKI primary resistant H1975 cells as compared to EGFR-TKI acquired resistance cells (PC-9GR, H1650-M3) and EGFR-TKI sensitivity cells (PC-9, HCC827). Inhibition of IGF-1R activity by AG-1024 (a small molecule of IGF-1R inhibitor), as well as downregulation of IGF-1R by siRNA, significantly enhanced the ability of Gef to suppress proliferation and induce apoptosis in H1975 cells via the inhibition of AKT activation and subsequent upregulation of Bcl-2-interacting mediator of cell death (BIM). Interestingly, the observation showed that Met combined with Gef treatment had similar tumor growth suppression effects in comparison with the addition of AG-1024 to therapy with Gef. A clear synergistic antiproliferative interaction between Met and Gef was observed with a combination index (CI) value of 0.65. Notably, IGF-1R silencing mediated by RNA interference (RNAi) attenuated anticancer effects of Met without obviously resensitizing H1975 cells to Gef. Finally, Met-based combinatorial therapy effectively blocked tumor growth in the xenograft with TKI primary resistant lung cancer cells.
Conclusion: Our findings demonstrated that Met combined with Gef would be a promising strategy to overcome EGFR-TKI primary resistance via suppressing IGF-1R signaling pathway in NSCLC.

Keywords: metformin, gefitinib, IGF-1R, primary resistance, lung cancer

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