Role of activation of the protein tyrosine kinase, Src, in colorectal cancer chemoresistance

Edmund Scott Kopetz, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Advances in therapy for colorectal cancer have been hampered by development of resistance to chemotherapy. The Src family of protein tyrosine kinases has been associated with colorectal cancer development and progression. Activation of the prototypic member of the family, Src, occurs in advanced colorectal cancer and is associated with a worse outcome. This work tests the hypotheses that Src activation contributes to chemoresistance in some colon tumors and that this resistance can be overcome by use of Src inhibitors. The aims of the proposal were to (1) determine if constitutive Src activation is sufficient to induce oxaliplatin resistance; (2) evaluate the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the activation of Src after oxaliplatin treatment; (3) determine the frequency of Src activation in liver metastases after oxaliplatin treatment; and (4) evaluate the safety, preliminary efficacy, and pharmacodynamics of the combination of dasatinib with oxaliplatin-based therapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. ^ Using a panel of colon cancer cell lines and murine models, I demonstrate that administration of oxaliplatin, a commonly utilized chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, results in an increased activation of Src. The activation occurs acutely in some, but not all, colorectal carcinoma cell lines. Cell lines selected for oxaliplatin resistance are further increased in Src activity. Treatment of cell lines with dasatinib, a non-selective pharmacologic inhibitor of the Src family kinases synergistically killed some, but not all cell lines. Cell lines with the highest acute activation of Src after oxaliplatin administration were the most sensitive to the combination therapy. Previous work demonstrated that siRNA to Src increased sensitivity to oxaliplatin, suggesting that the effects of dasatinib are primarily due to its ability to inhibit Src in these cell lines. ^ To examine the mechanism underlying these results, I examined the effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS), as previous studies have demonstrated that platinum chemotherapeutics result in intracellular oxidative stress. I demonstrated that oxaliplatin-induced reactive oxygen species were higher in the cell lines with Src activation, relative to those in which Src was not activated. This oxaliplatin-induced Src activation was blocked by the administration of anti-oxidants, thereby demonstrating that synergistic killing between dasatinib and oxaliplatin was associated with the ability of the latter to generate ROS. ^ In a murine model of colorectal cancer metastasis to the liver, the combination of dasatinib and oxaliplatin was more effective in reducing tumor volume than either agent alone. However, when oxaliplatin resistant cell lines were treated with a combination of oxaliplatin and AZD0530, an inhibitor in the clinic with increased specificity for Src, no additional benefit was seen, although Src was activated by oxaliplatin and Src substrates were inhibited. The indolent growth of oxaliplatin-resistant cells, unlike the growth of oxaliplatin resistant tumors in patients, precludes definitive interpretation of these results. ^ To further explore Src activation in patients with oxaliplatin exposure and resistance, an immunohistochemistry analysis of tumor tissue from resected liver metastases of colorectal cancer was performed. Utilizing a tissue microarray, staining for phosphorylated Src and FAK demonstrated strong staining of tumor relative to stromal and normal liver. In patients recently exposed to oxaliplatin, there was increased FAK activation, supporting the clinical relevance of the prior preclinical studies. ^ To pursue the potential clinical benefit of the combination of Src inhibition with oxaliplatin, a phase IB clinical trial was completed. Thirty patients with refractory metastatic colorectal cancer were treated with a combination of 5-FU, oxaliplatin, an epidermal-growth factor receptor monoclonal antibody, and dasatinib. The recommended phase II dose of dasatinib was established, and toxicities were quantified. Pharmacodynamic studies demonstrated increased phosphorylation of the Src substrate paxillin after dasatinib therapy. Tumor biopsies were obtained and Src expression levels were quantitated. Clinical benefit was seen with the combination, including a response rate of 20% and disease control rate of 56%, prompting a larger clinical study. ^ In summary, although Src is constitutively activated in metastatic colorectal cancer, administration of oxaliplatin chemotherapy can further increase its activity, through a reactive oxygen species dependent manner. Inhibition of Src in combination with oxaliplatin provides additional benefit in vitro, in preclinical animal models, and in the clinic. Further study of Src inhibition in the clinic and identification of predictive biomarkers of response will be required to further advance this promising therapeutic target. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Molecular|Health Sciences, Oncology

Recommended Citation

Kopetz, Edmund Scott, "Role of activation of the protein tyrosine kinase, Src, in colorectal cancer chemoresistance" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3394955.