Current treatment options for patients with advanced colorectal cancers include anti-EGFR/HER1 therapy with the blocking antibody cetuximab. Although a subset of patients with KRAS WT disease initially respond to the treatment, resistance develops in almost all cases. Relapse has been associated with the production of the ligand heregulin (HRG) and/or compensatory signaling involving the receptor tyrosine kinases HER2 and HER3. Here, we provide evidence that triple-HER receptor blockade based on a newly developed bispecific EGFR×HER3-targeting antibody (scDb-Fc) together with the HER2-blocking antibody trastuzumab effectively inhibited HRG-induced HER receptor phosphorylation, downstream signaling, proliferation, and stem cell expansion of DiFi and LIM1215 colorectal cancer cells. Comparative analyses revealed that the biological activity of scDb-Fc plus trastuzumab was sometimes even superior to that of the combination of the parental antibodies, with PI3K/Akt pathway inhibition correlating with improved therapeutic response and apoptosis induction as seen by single-cell analysis. Importantly, growth suppression by triple-HER targeting was recapitulated in primary KRAS WT patient-derived organoid cultures exposed to HRG. Collectively, our results provide strong support for a pan-HER receptor blocking approach to combat anti-EGFR therapy resistance of KRAS WT colorectal cancer tumors mediated by the upregulation of HRG and/or HER2/HER3 signaling.

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