Background: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a molecularly heterogeneous disease with a high propensity for drug resistance and metastasis. AXL, a member of the Tyro3-AXL-Mer family of receptor tyrosine kinases, is a central regulator of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and enables tumor cells to invade and acquire drug resistance. AXL is overexpressed in lung tumors, correlates positively with tumor invasion, drug resistance, and negatively predicts overall survival. We mechanistically interrogate the effects of AXL inhibitor TP-0903 on EMT in lung adenocarcinoma cells using transcriptomic and proteomic profiling.

Methods: Atomic force microscopy, Western blot analysis, RNA sequencing and mass cytometry (CyTOF) were all used to scrutinize the biomechanical properties, phenotypic, transcriptomic and proteomic profiles of A549 cells treated with 40nM TP0903 or shAXL knockdown.

Results: TP-0903 attenuates total AXL/AXL phosphorylation and blunts transcriptional responses to TGFβ-Hippo signaling by disrupting the transcriptional complexes formed by SMAD2/3, SMAD4, YAP1 and TAZ. AXL knockdown or TP-0903 reverses EMT phenotype and reduces migration potential in A549 and H2009 adenocarcinoma cell lines. CyTOF data also identified resistant clones that overexpress TGFβ receptor II, TAZ protein and display hybrid EMT phenotypes.

Conclusions: We are the first to report the interplay between AXL and TGFβ-Hippo signaling axis. TP-0903 study agent has excellent therapeutic promise in NSCLC and we speculate that TP-0903 drug can target epithelial to mesenchymal transitional states in lung cancer cells possibly through the inhibition of the AXL-TGFβ-Hippo signaling axis.

Citation Format: Josephine Amalia Taverna, Chia-Nung Hung, Chun-Lin Lin, Pawel Osmulski, Meizhen Chen, Chiou-Miin Wang, Nicholas L. L. Lucio, Nameer Kirma, Chih-Wei Chou, Maria E. Gaczynska, Alia Nazarullah, Mark Wade, Lars Mouritsen, Tim Huang. AXL inhibitor TP-0903 attenuates AXL-TGFbeta Hippo signaling axis in lung adenocarcinoma cells [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 2193.