Efficacy of cytotoxic agents against human tumor xenografts is markedly enhanced by coadministration of ZD1839 (Iressa), an inhibitor of EGFR tyrosine kinase

F. M. Sirotnak, M. F. Zakowski, V. A. Miller, H. I. Scher, M. G. Kris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

787 Scopus citations


The blockade of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) function with monoclonal antibodies has major antiproliferative effects against human tumors in vivo. Similar antiproliferative effects against some of these same tumors have also been observed with specific inhibitors of the EGFR-associated tyrosine kinase. One such inhibitor, the p.o. active ZD1839 (Iressa), has pronounced antiproliferative activity against human tumor xenografts. We now show that coadministration of ZD1839, as with anti-EGFR, will enhance the efficacy of cytotoxic agents against human vulvar (A431), lung (A549 and SK-LC-16 NSCL and LX-1) and prostate (PC-3 and TSU-PR1) tumors. Oral ZD1839 (five times daily × 2) and cytotoxic agents (i.p. every 3-4 days × 4) were given for a period of 2 weeks to mice with well-established tumors. On this schedule, the maximum tolerated dose (150 mg/kg) of ZD1839 induced partial regression of A431, a tumor that expresses high levels of EGFR, 70-80% inhibition among tumors with low but highly variable levels of EGFR expression (A549, SKLC-16, TSU-PR1 and PC-3) and 50-55% inhibition against the LX-1 tumor, which expresses very low levels of EGFR. ZD1839 was very effective in potentiating most cytotoxic agents in combination treatment against all of these tumors, irrespective of EGFR status, but dose reduction of ZD1839 below its single-agent maximum tolerated dose was required for optimum tolerance. The pronounced growth inhibitory action of the platinums, cisplatin and carboplatinum, as single agents against A431 vulvar, A549 and LX-1 lung and TSU-PR1 and PC-3 prostate tumors was increased several-fold when ZD1839 was added, with some regression of A431 and PC-3 tumors. Although the taxanes, paclitaxel or docetaxel, as single agents markedly inhibited the growth of A431, LX-1, SK-LC-16, TSU-PR1 and PC-3, when combined with ZD1839, partial or complete regression was usually seen. Against A549, the growth inhibition of doxorubicin was increased 10-fold (>99%) with ZD1839. The folate analogue, edatrexate, was highly growth inhibitory against A549, LX-1 and TSU-PR1, whereas edatrexate combined with ZD1839 resulted in partial or complete regression in these tumors. Against the A431 tumor, paclitaxel alone either was highly growth inhibitory or induced some regression, but when combined with ZD1839, pronounced regression was obtained. Combination with gemcitabine neither added nor detracted from baseline cytotoxic efficacy, whereas ZD1839 combined with vinorelbine was poorly tolerated. Overall, these results suggest that potentiation of cytotoxic treatment with ZD1839 does not require high levels of EGFR expression in the target tumors. They also suggest significant clinical benefit from ZD1839 in combination with a variety of widely used cytotoxic agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4885-4892
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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