Background: Adenocarcinoma is the most common subtype of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and often harbors oncogenic driver mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Osimertinib (AZD9291), a third generation EGFR TKI, has replaced earlier generation EGFR TKIs for first line treatment of EGFR mutant lung cancer due to its improved overall survival, longer progression free survival, and better tolerability compared to earlier generation inhibitors. However, like earlier generation EGFR TKIs, only about two thirds of patients respond, indicating an unknown mechanism of intrinsic resistance for the non-responders. We previously identified overexpression of CRIPTO as a potential mechanism of intrinsic resistance to EGFR TKIs of first and second generation. Objective: To determine if CRIPTO could promote drug resistance against the third generation EGFR-TKIs osimertinib. We also wanted to investigate whether this resistance was conferred by both membrane bound and secreted CRIPTO. Finally, we wanted to explore the potential of secreted CRIPTO as a non-invasive biomarker for EGFR-TKI resistance. Materials and methods: HCC827 and H1975, EGFR mutant non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) cell lines, were transfected with wildtype CRIPTO, two secreted variants of CRIPTO, a membrane only version of CRIPTO, and the mock backbone vector as the control. Western blotting, immunoprecipitation, and in vitro viability experiments were performed. In vivo work was carried out in athymic nude mice; 2 × 106 CRIPTO overexpressing HCC827 cells were implanted per mouse. EGFR mutant NSCLC patient blood samples were collected before treatment with and EGFR-TKI, during response while on treatment, and at progression while on treatment. Results: Although both membrane bound and secreted CRIPTO forms were able to activate downstream pathways such as SRC, CRIPTO was unable to elicit resistance towards osimertinib in vitro or in vivo. CRIPTO serum levels in mice were higher in larger xenograft tumors. Furthermore, CRIPTO serum levels were higher in patients with progressing lung cancer when compared to their CRIPTO serum levels during EGFR-TKI response. Conclusions: CRIPTO does not cause resistance against third generation EGFR-TKI osimertinib. CRIPTO levels in serum might be a potentially useful biomarker for tumor burden in NSCLC patients.
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