Background: HER-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have demonstrated pro-apoptotic and antiproliferative effects in vitro and in vivo. The exact pathways through which TKIs exert their antineoplastic effects are, however, still not completely understood. Methods: Using Milliplex assays, we have investigated the effects of the three panHER-TKIs lapatinib, canertinib and afatinib on signal transduction cascade activation in SKBR3, T47D and Jurkat neoplastic cell lines. The growth-inhibitory effect of blockade of HER and of JNK and STAT5 signaling was measured by proliferation- and apoptosis-assays using formazan dye labeling of viable cells, Western blotting for cleaved PARP-1 and immunolabeling for active caspase 3, respectively. Results: All three HER-TKIs clearly inhibited proliferation and increased apoptosis in HER2 overexpressing SKBR3 cells, while their effect was less pronounced on HER2 moderately expressing T47D cells where they exerted only a weak antiproliferative and essentially no pro-apoptotic effect. Remarkably, phosphorylation/activation of JNK and STAT5A/B were inhibited by HER-TKIs only in the sensitive, but not in the resistant cells. In contrast, phosphorylation/activation of ERK/MAPK, STAT3, CREB, p70 S6 kinase, IkBa, and p38 were equally affected by HER-TKIs in both cell lines. Moreover, we demonstrated that direct pharmacological blockade of JNK and STAT5 abrogates cell growth in both HER-TKI-sensitive as well as -resistant breast cancer cells, respectively. Conclusion: We have shown that HER-TKIs exert a HER2 expression-dependent anti-cancer effect in breast cancer cell lines. This involves blockade of JNK and STAT5A/B signaling, which have been found to be required for in vitro growth of these cell lines.
Gschwantler-Kaulich, D., Grunt, T. W., Muhr, D., Wagner, R., Kölbl, H., & Singer, C. F. (2016). HER specific TKIs exert their antineoplastic effects on breast cancer cell lines through the involvement of STAT5 and JNK. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0146311