In this study, we have characterized a panel of NSCLC cell lines with differential sensitivity to gefitinib for activating mutations in egfr, pik3ca, and k-ras, and basal protein expression levels of PTEN. The egfr mutant NSCLC cell line H1650 as well as the egfr wild type cell lines H292 and A431 were highly sensitive to gefitinib treatment, indicating that other factors determine gefitinib-sensitivity in egfr wild type cells. Activating k-ras mutations were specifically detected in gefitinib-resistant cells, suggesting that the occurrence of k-ras mutations is correlated with resistance to EGFR antagonists. No pik3ca mutations were detected within the panel of cell lines, and PTEN protein expression levels did not correlate with gefitinib sensitivity. Gefitinib effectively blocked Akt and Erk phosphorylation in two gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines, further supporting our previous findings that persistent activity of the PI3K/Akt and/or Ras/Erk pathways is associated with gefitinib-resistance of NSCLC cell lines. Gefitinib-resistant NSCLC cell lines, showing EGFR-independent activity of the PI3K/Akt or Ras/Erk pathways, were treated with gefitinib in combination with specific inhibitors of mTOR, P13K, Ras, and MEK. Additive cytotoxicity was observed in A549 cells co-treated with gefitinib and the MEK inhibitor U0126 or the farnesyl transferase inhibitor SCH66336 and in H460 cells treated with gefitinib and the PI3K inhibitor LY294002, but not in H460 cells treated with gefitinib and rapamycin. These data suggest that combination treatment of NSCLC cells with gefitinib and specific inhibitors of the PI3K/Akt and Ras/Erk pathways may provide a successful strategy.
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