EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) is a standard first-line therapy for activated EGFR-mutated non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Treatment options for patients with acquired EGFR-TKI resistance are limited. HER3 mediates EGFR-TKI resistance. Clinical trials of the HER3-targeting antibody–drug conjugate patritumab deruxtecan (HER3-DXd) demonstrated its anticancer activity in EGFR-mutated NSCLC; however, the mechanisms that regulate HER3 expression are unknown. This study was conducted with the aim to clarify the mechanisms underlying HER3 regulation in EGFR-mutated NSCLC tumors and explored the strategy for enhancing the anticancer activity of HER3-DXd in EGFR-mutated NSCLC.
Paired tumor samples were obtained from 48 patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC treated with EGFR-TKI(s). HER3 expression was immunohistochemically quantified with H-score, and genomic alteration and transcriptomic signature were tested in tumors from pretreatment to post-EGFR-TKI resistance acquisition. The anticancer efficacy of HER3-DXd and osimertinib was evaluated in EGFR-mutated NSCLC cells.
We showed augmented HER3 expression in EGFR-mutated tumors with acquired EGFR-TKI resistance compared with paired pretreatment samples. RNA sequencing revealed that repressed PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling was associated with HER3 augmentation, especially in tumors from patients who received continuous EGFR-TKI therapy. An in vitro study also showed that EGFR-TKI increased HER3 expression, repressed AKT phosphorylation in multiple EGFR-mutated cancers, and enhanced the anticancer activity of HER3-DXd.
Our findings help clarify the mechanisms of HER3 regulation in EGFR-mutated NSCLC tumors and highlight a rationale for combination therapy with HER3-DXd and EGFR-TKI in EGFR-mutated NSCLC.