Role of epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor-induced interferon pathway signaling in the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma therapeutic response

Background: Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is frequently amplified or overexpressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and is a clinically validated target for the therapeutic antibody, cetuximab, in the management of this cancer. The degree of response to EGFR inhibitors measured by tumor shrinkage varies widely among HNSCC patients, and the biological mechanisms that underlie therapeutic heterogeneity amongst HNSCC patients remain ill-defined.

Methods: EGFR-dependent human and murine HNSCC cell lines were treated with the EGFR/ERBB inhibitors, gefitinib and AZD8931, and submitted to RNAseq, GSEA, and qRT-PCR. Conditioned media was analyzed by ELISA and Luminex assays. Murine HNSCC tumors were stained for T cell markers by immunofluorescence. Primary HSNCC patient specimens treated with single agent cetuximab were stained with Vectra multispectral immunofluorescence.

Results: The transcriptional reprogramming response to EGFR/ERBB-specific TKIs was measured in a panel of EGFR-dependent human HNSCC cell lines and interferon (IFN) α and γ responses identified as top-ranked TKI-induced pathways. Despite similar drug sensitivity, responses among 7 cell lines varied quantitatively and qualitatively, especially regarding the induced chemokine and cytokine profiles. Of note, the anti-tumorigenic chemokine, CXCL10, and the pro-tumorigenic factor, IL6, exhibited wide-ranging and non-overlapping induction. Similarly, AZD8931 exerted potent growth inhibition, IFNα/IFNγ pathway activation, and CXCL10 induction in murine B4B8 HNSCC cells. AZD8931 treatment of immune-competent mice bearing orthotopic B4B8 tumors increased CD8 + T cell content and the therapeutic response was abrogated in nu/nu mice relative to BALB/c mice. Finally, Vectra 3.0 analysis of HNSCC patient tumors prior to and after 3-4 weeks of single agent cetuximab treatment revealed increased CD8 + T cell content in specimens from patients exhibiting a therapeutic response relative to non-responders.

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S2192 Sapitinib (AZD8931) Sapitinib (AZD8931) is a reversible, ATP competitive inhibitor of EGFR, ErbB2 and ErbB3 with IC50 of 4 nM, 3 nM and 4 nM in cell-free assays, more potent than Gefitinib or Lapatinib against NSCLC cell, 100-fold more selective for the ErbB family than MNK1 and Flt. Phase 2. (42) (3)

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