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Inhibition of fibroblast growth factor receptor-signaling sensitizes imatinib-resistant gastrointestinal stromal tumors to low doses of topoisomerase II inhibitors

Boichuk, Sergeia; Dunaev, Pavela; Galembikova, Aigula; Mustafin, Ilshata; Valeeva, Elenab

doi: 10.1097/CAD.0000000000000637

The acquired resistance of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) to the targeted-based therapy remains the driving force to identify the novel approaches that are capable of increasing the sensitivity of GISTs to the current therapeutic regimens. Our present data show that BGJ398, a selective fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitor, sensitizes imatinib (IM)-resistant GIST cells with receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) switch (loss of c-KIT/gain of pFGFR2a) to the low doses of topoisomerase II inhibitors – doxorubicin (Dox) and etoposide (Eto). Mechanistically, pretreatment of IM-resistant GIST cells with BGJ398 for 12 h markedly enhanced proapoptotic and growth-suppressive effects of Dox (or Eto). Indeed, a significant cleavage of PARP and caspase-3 was observed in GIST cells treated with a combination of FGFR and topoisomerase II inhibitor. In contrast, no signs of apoptosis were detected in IM-resistant GIST cells treated with BGJ398, whereas the low doses of Dox (Eto) exerted the minor proapoptotic effects on GISTs. The mechanism of BGJ398-induced sensitization of GIST to topoisomerase II inhibitors might be because of attenuation of DNA damage signaling and repair. Indeed, we observed a marked decrease in Rad51 expression in GIST cells treated with BGJ398 together with Dox. Similar results were obtained when an overexpressed pFGFR2a was knocked down by corresponding siRNA before Dox (Eto) exposure. Moreover, FGFR inhibition/depletion caused a loss of Rad51 foci in Dox-treated GIST cells, suggesting that FGFR-signaling plays an important regulatory role in homology-mediated DNA repair. Our data show that combined therapy (RTKs inhibitors supplemented with low doses of topoisomerase II inhibitors) might be effective for unresectable and metastatic forms of GISTs. In case of resistance to IM because of RTKs switch indicated above, FGFR inhibitors (e.g. BGJ398) might be potentially useful because of their ability to sensitize tumor cells to topoisomerase II inhibitors and induce tumor cell apoptosis by targeting DNA double-strand breaks repair.

aDepartment of Pathology

bCentral Research Laboratory, Kazan State Medical University, Kazan, Russia

Correspondence to Sergei Boichuk, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, Kazan State Medical University, Kazan 420012, Russia Tel: +7 917 397 8093; fax: +7 843 236 0393; e-mail:

Received December 11, 2017

Accepted April 5, 2018

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