BACKGROUND Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have gained much attention in recent years as targeted agents for the treatment of a wide range of human cancers. We have investigated the effect of the TKIs gefitinib and vandetanib on tumor cell lines derived from Ewing sarcoma, a highly malignant tumor affecting bone and soft tissue in children and young adults. Gefitinib is an inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase activity (EGFR) and vandetanib selectively targets vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) with additional activity against VEGFR-3, EGFR and RET kinase receptors. RESULTS Two Ewing sarcoma cell lines investigated showed high levels of nuclear EGFR expression as well as moderate expression in plasma membrane and cytoplasm. When treated with concentrations of 5 muM and more of either gefitinib or vandetanib, we observed a significant decrease in cell proliferation. However, there were no detectable changes in p44/42 MAPK and Akt-1 phosphorylation, or in the expression of cyclin D1 or c-Myc following gefitinib or vandetanib treatment. CONCLUSION We conclude that Ewing sarcoma tumor cell proliferation is not highly sensitive to inhibition of EGFR signaling alone or the simultaneous inhibition of VEGFR receptors, EGFR and RET kinase. Decreased tumor cell proliferation could be achieved with gefitinib and vandetanib, but only at higher doses where non-specific effects of the compounds may be overriding. As Ewing tumor cells do not seem to depend on EGFR and VEGFR pathways for survival, other key factors in the cellular signaling of Ewing sarcoma should be targeted in order to obtain a potent therapeutic response.
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