Clinical and animal studies indicate a role for cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in the development and progression of intestinal polyps and cancers. Although this combination of enzyme inhibition has shown synergy in intestinal polyp and tumor models, the exact mechanism for these effects remains undefined. Therefore, we sought to define the molecular mechanisms through which this process occurs. We observed a significant reduction in the number and size of small intestinal polyps in APCmin+/- mice treated with either celecoxib (a selective COX-2 inhibitor) or erlotinib (Tarceva, an EGFR inhibitor). However, in combination, there was an overall prevention in the formation of polyps by over 96%. Furthermore, we observed a 70% reduction of colorectal xenograft tumors in mice treated with the combination and microarray analysis revealed genes involved in cell cycle progression were negatively regulated. Although we did not observe significant changes in mRNAs of genes with known apoptotic function, there was a significant increase of apoptosis in tumors from animals treated with the combination. The inhibition of EGFR also induced the downregulation of COX-2 and further inhibited prostaglandin E2 formation. We observed similar effects on the prevention of intestinal adenomas and reduction of xenograft tumor volume when nonselective COX inhibitors were used in combination with erlotinib. Together, these findings suggest that the inhibition of both COX-2 and EGFR may provide a better therapeutic strategy than either single agent through a combination of decreased cellular proliferation and prostaglandin signaling as well as increased apoptosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research