Research ArticleCancer Biology

Synthetic Lethal Screen of an EGFR-Centered Network to Improve Targeted Therapies

Science Signaling  21 Sep 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 140, pp. ra67
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2001083

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Abstract

Intrinsic and acquired cellular resistance factors limit the efficacy of most targeted cancer therapeutics. Synthetic lethal screens in lower eukaryotes suggest that networks of genes closely linked to therapeutic targets would be enriched for determinants of drug resistance. We developed a protein network centered on the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is a validated cancer therapeutic target, and used small interfering RNA screening to comparatively probe this network for proteins that regulate the effectiveness of both EGFR-targeted agents and nonspecific cytotoxic agents. We identified subnetworks of proteins influencing resistance, with putative resistance determinants enriched among proteins that interacted with proteins at the core of the network. We found that clinically relevant drugs targeting proteins connected in the EGFR network, such as protein kinase C or Aurora kinase A, or the transcriptional regulator signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), synergized with EGFR antagonists to reduce cell viability and tumor size, suggesting the potential for a direct path to clinical exploitation. Such a focused approach can potentially improve the coherent design of combination cancer therapies.

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