Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Prahlad Ram, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Mandri Obeyesekere, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Joya Chandra, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Luay Nakhleh, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Ju-Seog Lee, Ph. D.


Signaling through epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/ErbB) family members plays a very important role in regulating proliferation, development, and malignant transformation of mammary epithelial cells. ErbB family members are often over-expressed in human breast carcinomas. Lapatinib is an ErbB1 and ErbB2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor that has been shown to have anti-proliferative effects in breast and lung cancer cells. Cells treated with Lapatinib undergo G1 phase arrest, followed by apoptosis. Lapatinib has been approved for clinical use, though patients have developed resistance to the drug, as seen previously with other EGFR inhibitors. Moreover, the therapeutic efficacy varies significantly within the patient population, and the mechanism of drug sensitivity is not fully understood. Expression levels of ErbB2 are used as a prognostic marker for Lapatinib response; however, even among breast tumor cell lines that express similar levels of ErbB2 there is marked difference in their proliferative responses to Lapatinib. To understand the mechanisms of acquired resistance, we established a cell line SkBr3-R that is resistant to Lapatinib, from a Lapatinib-sensitive breast tumor cell line, SkBr3. We have characterized the cell lines and demonstrated that Lapatinib resistance in our system is not facilitated by receptor-level activity or by previously known mutations in the ErbB receptors. Significant changes were observed in cell proliferation, cell migration, cell cycle and cell death between the Lapatinib resistant SkBr3-R and sensitive SkBr3 cell lines. Recent studies have suggested STAT3 is upregulated in Lapatinib resistant tumors in association with ErbB signaling. We investigated the role that STAT3 may play in Lapatinib resistance and discovered higher STAT3 activity in these resistant cells. In addition, transcriptional profiling indicated higher expression of STAT3 target genes, as well as of other genes that promote survival. The gene array data also revealed cell cycle regulators and cell adhesion/junction component genes as possible mediator of Lapatinib resistance. Altogether, this study has identified several possible mechanisms of Lapatinib resistance.


lapatinib, resistance, breast, cancer, acquired, STAT3, EGFR, ErbB



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