Purpose: No effective treatment options currently are available to patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC), resulting in high mortality rates. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been shown to play a role in the pathogenesis of many types of cancer, and its receptor (EGFR) provides an attractive target for molecular therapy. Experimental Design: The expression of EGFR was determined in ATC in vitro and in vivo and in human tissue arrays of ATC. We assessed the potential of the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib ("Iressa," ZD1839) to inhibit EGFR activation in vitro and in vivo, inhibit ATC cellular proliferation, induce apoptosis, and reduce the growth of ATC cells in vivo when administered alone and in combination with paclitaxel. Results: EGFR was overexpressed in ATC cell lines in vitro and in vivo and in human ATC specimens. Activation of EGFR by EGF was blocked by the addition of gefitinib. In vitro studies showed that gefitinib greatly inhibited cellular proliferation and induced apoptosis in ATC cell lines and slowed tumor growth in a nude mouse model of thyroid carcinoma cells injected subcutaneously. Conclusions: ATC cells consistently overexpress EGFR, rendering this receptor a potential target for molecular therapy. Gefitinib effectively blocks activation of EGFR by EGF, inhibits ATC cellular proliferation, and induces apoptosis in vitro. Our in vivo results show that gefitinib has significant antitumor activity against ATC in a subcutaneous nude mouse tumor model and therefore is a potential candidate for human clinical trials.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research