Phosphoproteomics of patient-derived xenografts identifies targets and markers associated with sensitivity and resistance to EGFR blockade in colorectal cancer

Robin Beekhof, Andrea Bertotti, Franziska Böttger, Valentina Vurchio, Francesca Cottino, Eugenia R. Zanella, Giorgia Migliardi, Marco Viviani, Elena Grassi, Barbara Lupo, Alex A. Henneman, Jaco C. Knol, Thang V. Pham, Richard de Goeij-de Haas, Sander R. Piersma, Mariette Labots, Henk M. W. Verheul, Livio Trusolino, Connie R. Jimenez

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a well-exploited therapeutic target in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Unfortunately, not all patients benefit from current EGFR inhibitors. Mass spectrometry-based proteomics and phosphoproteomics were performed on 30 genomically and pharmacologically characterized mCRC patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) to investigate the molecular basis of response to EGFR blockade and identify alternative drug targets to overcome resistance. Both the tyrosine and global phosphoproteome as well as the proteome harbored distinctive response signatures. We found that increased pathway activity related to mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibition and abundant tyrosine phosphorylation of cell junction proteins, such as CXADR and CLDN1/3, in sensitive tumors, whereas epithelial-mesenchymal transition and increased MAPK and AKT signaling were more prevalent in resistant tumors. Furthermore, the ranking of kinase activities in single samples confirmed the driver activity of ERBB2, EGFR, and MET in cetuximab-resistant tumors. This analysis also revealed high kinase activity of several members of the Src and ephrin kinase family in 2 CRC PDX models with genomically unexplained resistance. Inhibition of these hyperactive kinases, alone or in combination with cetuximab, resulted in growth inhibition of ex vivo PDX-derived organoids and in vivo PDXs. Together, these findings highlight the potential value of phosphoproteomics to improve our understanding of anti-EGFR treatment and response prediction in mCRC and bring to the forefront alternative drug targets in cetuximab-resistant tumors.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabm3687
Pages (from-to)eabm3687
JournalScience Translational Medicine
Issue number709
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2023

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