Glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive primary human brain tumor, carrier a dismal prognosis and is increasingly characterized by cellular and genetic intra-tumoral heterogeneity (ITH). Many of the 14 members of the erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular carcinoma receptor (EphR) family and their ephrin ligands are expressed in GBM cells and constitute potential molecular targets for novel therapeutic agents. We hypothesize that multiple members of the EphR family play a critical role in orchestrating the clonal evolution of GBM progression. Individual Eph receptor targeting strategies have shown only modest pre-clinical success, likely because single agent therapy cannot target the degree of ITH in GBM. Using a highly specific human Eph receptor monoclonal antibody (mAb) panel (EphR profiler), we identified five Eph receptors with dysregulated expression in recurrent GBM as compared to primary GBM. With our unique chemoradiotherapy-adapted, patient-derived xenograft model of GBM, we identified EphA2 and EphA3 expression to be upregulated after therapy. Here we show that EphA2 and EphA3 co-expression marks a highly tumorigenic cell population in recurrent GBM with higher in vitro and in vivo self-renewal and proliferation capacity as compared to EphA2+/EphA3-, EphA2-/EphA3+ or EphA2-/EphA3- cells. Lentiviral mediated knockdown of EphA2 and EphA3 blocks this self-renewal and proliferation capacity in recurrent GBM. Through further characterization using mass cytometry (CyTOF) assay, we find that EphA2 and EphA3 is co-expressed with multiple brain tumor initiating cell (BTIC) markers (CD133, CD15, Bmi1, Sox2, Integrin α6 and FoxG1). Considering the important role of EphA2+/EphA3+ cells in GBM tumorigenesis and recurrence, we generated a bi-specific antibody (bsIgG) that co-targets EphA2 and EphA3. In vitro treatment of GBM with bsEphA2/A3 IgG led to pharmacological blockade of phosphorylated EphA2. We then assessed the in vivo efficacy of the bsEphA2/A3 IgG to block GBM tumor growth in our PDX model, and found that treatment with intracranial bsIgG resulted in non-invasive and significantly smaller lesions. The striking reduction in tumor burden in recurrent GBM after co-targeting of EphA2 and EphA3 validates the premise of our therapeutic strategy of targeting multiple EphRs. Discovering the clonal composition of recurrent GBM will enable us to target cellular subpopulations, and this ITH, with selective compounds that inhibit BTIC and Eph receptor activity with minimal off-target effects. Comprehensive Eph receptor profiling of individual patient-derived GBM will allow us to develop a therapeutic strategy for each patient's tumor, employing polytherapy with mAbs against Eph receptors expressed at recurrence.
Citation Format: Parvez Vora, Maleeha Qazi, Chirayu Chokshi, Chitra Venugopal, Max London, Amy Hu, Nicole McFarlane, Minomi Subapanditha, Mohini Singh, Sujeivan Mahendram, Jarrett Adams, Jason Moffat, Sachdev Sidhu, Sheila Singh. Therapeutic targeting of tumorigenic EphA2+/EphA3+ brain tumor initiating cells with bi-specific antibody in glioblastoma [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Second CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; 2016 Sept 25-28; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2016;4(11 Suppl):Abstract nr B092.