Tackling ErbB2: ErbB2-targeting peptide therapy and combination therapy with trastuzumab plus PI3K inhibitors

Keng-Hsueh Lan, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


ErbB2 is an excellent target for cancer therapies because its overexpression was found in about 30% of breast cancers and correlated with poor prognosis of the patients. Unfortunately, current therapies for ErbB2-positive breast cancers remain unsatisfying due to side effects and resistance, and new therapies for ErbB2 overexpressing breast cancers are needed. Peptide/protein therapy using cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) as carriers is promising because the internalization is highly efficient and the cargos can be bioactive. The major obstacle in using CPPs for therapy is their lack of specificity. We sought to develop a peptide carrier specifically introducing therapeutics to ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. By modifying the TAT-derived CPP, and attaching anti-HER2/neu peptide mimetic (AHNP), we developed the peptide carrier (P3-AHNP) specifically targeted ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancers in vitro and in vivo. A STAT3 SH2 domain-binding peptide conjugated to this peptide carrier (P3-AHNP-STAT3BP) was delivered preferentially into ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. P3-AHNP-STAT3BP inhibited growth and induced apoptosis in vitro, with ErbB2-overexpressing 435.eB cells being more sensitive than the ErbB2-lowexpressing MDA-MB-435 cells. P3-AHNP-STAT3BP preferentially accumulated and inhibited growth in 435.eB xenografts, comparing with MDA-MB-435 xenografts or normal tissues with low levels of ErbB2. This ErbB2-targeting peptide delivery system provided the basis for future development of novel cancer target-specific treatments with low toxicity to normal cells. Another urgent issue in treating ErbB2-positive breast cancers is trastuzumab resistance. Trastuzumab is the only FDA-approved ErbB2-targeting antibody for treatment of metastatic breast cancers overexpressing ErbB2, and has remarkable therapeutic efficacy in certain patients. The overall trastuzumab response rate, however, is limited, and understanding the mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance is needed to overcome this problem. We report that PTEN activation contributes to trastuzumab's anti-tumor activity. Trastuzumab treatment quickly inactivated Src, which reduced PTEN tyrosine phosphorylation, increased PTEN membrane localization and its phosphatase activity in cancer cells. Reducing PTEN expression in breast cancer cells by antisense oligonucleotides conferred trastuzumab resistance in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, PI3K inhibitors sensitized PTEN-deficient breast cancers to the growth inhibition by trastuzumab in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that combination therapies with PI3K inhibitors plus trastuzumab could overcome trastuzumab resistance.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Lan, Keng-Hsueh, "Tackling ErbB2: ErbB2-targeting peptide therapy and combination therapy with trastuzumab plus PI3K inhibitors" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3168441.