We found both in vitro and in vivo that survival of NSCLC cells in a hypoxic microenvironment requires Notch-1 signaling. A hypoxic tumor environment represents a problem for NSCLC treatment because it plays a critical role in cancer resistance to chemotherapy, tumor recurrence, and metastasis. Here we targeted hypoxic tumor tissue in an orthotopic NSCLC model. We inhibited the Notch-1/IGF-1R/Akt-1 axis using 3 agents: a γ-secretase inhibitor or GSI (MRK-003), a fully humanized antibody against the human IGF-1R (MK-0646), and a pan-Akt inhibitor (MK-2206), alone or in various combinations including therapeutics currently in clinical use. All treatments but Akt inhibition significantly prolonged the median survival of mice compared with controls. GSI treatment caused specific cell death of hypoxic tumors. Tumors excised from mice displayed a significant reduction of markers of hypoxia. Moreover, GSI treatment caused reduced metastasis to the liver and brain. MK-0646 was not specific to a hypoxic tumor environment but substantially increased the median survival of treated mice compared with controls. NSCLC cells evaded MK-0646 treatment by specifically overactivating EGF-R both in vivo and in 5 cell lines in vitro. This phenomenon is achieved at the level of protein stability. MK-0646 treatment caused increased erlotinib sensitivity in NSCLC cells poorly responsive to it. Sequential treatment with MK-0646 followed by erlotinib prolonged median survival of mice significantly. When the 2 drugs were administered simultaneously, no survival benefit was observed, and this combination therapy proved less effective than MK-0646 used as single agent. Our data offer novel information that may provide insights for the planning of clinical trials in humans, likely for maintenance therapy of NSCLC patients.
- insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor signaling
- notch signaling
- tumor hypoxia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research