Background Recent genomic studies indicated that esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is driven by amplification of c-MET or HER2 or both in a subset of patients. We studied the effect of MET targeting by the small molecule inhibitor foretinib in EAC cells and the interplay between MET and HER2 signaling. Methods We measured the expression levels and phosphorylation status of MET and HER2 proteins in EAC cell lines using Western blot analysis. The expression levels of MET and HER2 were manipulated by transfecting cells with specific siRNA or a plasmid expressing HER2. The small molecule inhibitors of c-MET and ERBB1/2 (foretinib and lapatinib, respectively) were tested for effect on growth, apoptosis, and downstream signaling pathways of EAC cells as single agents or in combination. The response to inhibitors was correlated to the levels of MET, HER2 expression, and amplification status. Results Foretinib inhibits phosphorylation of MET, which correlated with reduced EAC cell growth and inhibition of AKT and ERK phosphorylation. Cell growth inhibition by foretinib is most profound in the ESO51 cell line, which has MET gene amplification and overexpression. Inhibition of MET signaling by foretinib or siRNA-specific knock down of MET expression induces apoptosis in ESO51 cells. Ectopic expression of HER2 reduces foretinib-mediated growth inhibition and downstream ERK phosphorylation in ESO51-HER2 cells. The EAC OE33 cell line, with amplification and overexpression of both MET and HER2, demonstrated reduced sensitivity to foretinib or lapatinib and had a transient effect on downstream inhibition of phosphorylated AKT and ERK (p-AKT, p-ERK). The coadministration of foretinib and lapatinib effectively blocked both MET and HER2 signaling through the p-AKT and p-ERK pathways, dramatically inhibited growth, and induced apoptosis to overcome single-agent resistance in OE33 cells. Conclusions The mechanism for foretinib growth inhibition in MET-amplified EAC tumor cells is demonstrated. The interplay of dual MET/HER2 overexpression in the AKT and ERK pathways for esophageal cancer is described. Therefore, combination therapy could be a novel strategy for EAC with amplification of both MET and HER2.
- Journal Article
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine