Co-targeting ALK and EGFR parallel signaling in oral squamous cell carcinoma

Cara B. Gonzales, Jorge J. De La Chapa, Pothana Saikumar, Prajjal K. Singha, Nicholas F. Dybdal-Hargreaves, Jeffery Chavez, Aaron M. Horning, Jamie Parra, Nameer B. Kirma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) comprises 90% of all head and neck cancers and has a poor survival rate due to late-stage disease that is refractive to traditional therapies. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is over-expressed in greater than 80% of head and neck SCC (HNSCC). However, EGFR targeted therapies yielded little to no efficacy in clinical trials. This study investigated the efficacy of co-targeting EGFR and the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) whose promoter is hypomethylated in late-stage oral SCC (OSCC). We observed increased ALK activity in late-stage human OSCC tumors and invasive OSCC cell lines. We also found that while ALK inhibition alone had little effect on proliferation, co-targeting ALK and EGFR significantly reduced OSCC cell proliferation in vitro. Further analysis showed significant efficacy of combined treatment in HSC3-derived xenografts resulting in a 30% decrease in tumor volumes by 14 days (p < 0.001). Western blot analysis showed that co-targeting ALK and EGFR significantly reduced EGFR phosphorylation (Y1148) in HSC3 cells but not Cal27 cells. ALK and EGFR downstream signaling interactions are also demonstrated by Western blot analysis in which lone EGFR and ALK inhibitors attenuated AKT activity whereas co-targeting ALK and EGFR completely abolished AKT activation. No effects were observed on ERK1/2 activation. STAT3 activity was significantly induced by lone ALK inhibition in HSC3 cells and to a lower extent in Cal27 cells. Together, these data illustrate that ALK inhibitors enhance anti-tumor activity of EGFR inhibitors in susceptible tumors that display increased ALK expression, most likely through abolition of AKT activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-19
Number of pages8
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - 2016


  • Anaplastic lymphoma kinase
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Oral squamous cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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