Our laboratory has previously shown that some gefitinibinsensitive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines exhibit dominant autocrine fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) signaling. Herein, we deployed a wholegenome loss-of-function screen to identify genes whose knockdown potentiated the inhibitory effect of the FGFR inhibitor, AZ8010, in HNSCC cell lines. Three HNSCC cell lines expressing a genome-wide small hairpin RNA (shRNA) library were treated with AZ8010 and the abundance of shRNA sequences was assessed by deep sequencing. Underrepresented shRNAs in treated cells are expected to target genes important for survival with AZ8010 treatment. Synthetic lethal hits were validated with specific inhibitors and independent shRNAs. We found that multiple alternate receptors provided protection from FGFR inhibition, including receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), v-erb-b2 erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogene homolog 2 (ERBB2), and hepatocyte growth factor receptor (MET). We showed that specific knockdown of either ERBB2 or MET in combination with FGFR inhibition led to increased inhibition of growth relative to FGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) treatment alone. These results were confirmed using specific small molecule inhibitors of either ERBB family members or MET. Moreover, the triple combination of FGFR, MET, and ERBB family inhibitors showed the largest inhibition of growth and induction of apoptosis compared with the double combinations. These results reveal a role for alternate RTKs in maintaining progrowth and survival signaling in HNSCC cells in the setting of FGFR inhibition. Thus, improved therapies for HNSCC patients could involve rationally designed combinations of TKIs targeting FGFR, ERBB family members, and MET. Copyright.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine