Second- and third-generation inhibitors of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase activity (EGFR-TKIs) are improving the treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Here we established two sublines (BR1-8 and BR2-3) resistant to a second-generation inhibitor, afatinib, from the human lung cancer cell line HCC827 that harbors a mutation that activates the tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR. These afatinib-resistant sublines were resistant to first-generation EGFR-TKIs, gefitinib and erlotinib, and a third-generation EGFR-TKI, osimertinib. These resistant sublines showed markedly reduced levels of multiple EGFR family proteins, including the activated mutant EGFR, and complete loss of EGFR amplification as compared with their parental HCC827 cells harboring amplification of EGFR gene. Treatment with the multikinase inhibitor dasatinib or transfection with a SRC small interfering RNA inhibited cell survival and AKT phosphorylation in drug-resistant sublines to a greater extent compared with HCC827 cells. Further, the migration of drug-resistant cells was greater compared with that of HCC827 cells and was inhibited by dasatinib or an FAK inhibitor. These findings indicate that compensatory activation of SRC family kinases (SFKs) and FAK supports the survival and migration of afatinib-resistant cells when the expression of multiple EGFR family proteins was mostly abrogated. Combinations of potent drugs that target SFKs and FAK may overcome the resistance of lung cancer cells to second-generation TKIs.
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