Research ArticleCancer

Off-Target Lapatinib Activity Sensitizes Colon Cancer Cells Through TRAIL Death Receptor Up-Regulation

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Science Translational Medicine  08 Jun 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 86, pp. 86ra50
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001384

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Lapatinib, a dual HER2/EGFR (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2/epidermal growth factor receptor) inhibitor, is a recently approved targeted therapy for metastatic breast cancer. Because lapatinib enhances the efficacy of the chemotherapeutic agent capecitabine in breast cancer patients, we tested whether lapatinib also enhances the activity of anticancer agents in colorectal cancer. We found that lapatinib improved the proapoptotic effects of tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and two TRAIL receptor agonists, the antibodies mapatumumab and lexatumumab. Tumors from mice treated with a combination of lapatinib and TRAIL exhibited more immunostaining for cleaved caspase-8, a marker of the extrinsic cell death pathway, than did tumors from mice treated with lapatinib or TRAIL alone. Furthermore, combination therapy suppressed tumor growth more effectively than either agent alone. Lapatinib up-regulated the proapoptotic TRAIL death receptors DR4 and DR5, leading to more efficient induction of apoptosis in the presence of TRAIL receptor agonists. This activity of lapatinib was independent of EGFR and HER2. The off-target induction of DR5 by lapatinib resulted from activation of the c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK)/c-Jun signaling axis. This activity of lapatinib on TRAIL death receptor expression and signaling may confer therapeutic benefit when increased doses of lapatinib are used in combination with TRAIL receptor–activating agents.


  • Citation: N. G. Dolloff, P. A. Mayes, L. S. Hart, D. T. Dicker, R. Humphreys, W. S. El-Deiry, Off-Target Lapatinib Activity Sensitizes Colon Cancer Cells Through TRAIL Death Receptor Up-Regulation. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 86ra50 (2011).

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