Cancer Sci. 2018 Jun;109(6):2063-2073. doi: 10.1111/cas.13624.
Collagen type I induces EGFR-TKI resistance in EGFR-mutated cancer cells by mTOR activation through Akt-independent pathway.
Primary resistance to epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) is a serious problem in lung adenocarcinoma patients harboring EGFR mutations. The aim of this study was to examine whether and how collagen type I (Col I), the most abundantly deposited matrix in tumor stroma, affects EGFR-TKI sensitivity in EGFR-mutant cells. We evaluated the EGFR-TKI sensitivity of EGFR-mutated cancer cells cultured with Col I. Changes in the activation of downstream signaling molecules of EGFR were analyzed. We also examined the association between the Col I expression in tumor stroma in surgical specimens and EGFR-TKI response of postoperative recurrence patients with EGFR mutations. Compared to cancer cells without Col I, the survival rate of cancer cells cultured with Col I was significantly higher after EGFR-TKI treatment. In cancer cells cultured with and without Col I, EGFR-TKI suppressed the levels of phosphorylated (p-)EGFR, p-ERK1/2, and p-Akt. When compared to cancer cells without Col I, expression of p-P70S6K, a hallmark of mTOR activation, was dramatically upregulated in cancer cells with Col I. This activation was maintained even after EGFR-TKI treatment. Simultaneous treatment with EGFR-TKI and mTOR inhibitor abrogated Col I-induced resistance to EGFR-TKI. Patients with Col I-rich stroma had a significantly shorter progression-free survival time after EGFR-TKI therapy (238 days vs 404 days; P < .05). Collagen type I induces mTOR activation through an Akt-independent pathway, which results in EGFR-TKI resistance. Combination therapy using EGFR-TKI and mTOR inhibitor could be a possible strategy to combat this resistance.