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JNK Pathway Activation Modulates Acquired Resistance to EGFR/HER2–Targeted Therapies

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Resistance limits the effectiveness of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)-targeted therapies. Combination therapies targeting resistance mechanisms can considerably improve response, but will require an improved understanding of when particular combinations will be effective. One common form of resistance is bypass signaling, wherein RTKs not targeted by an inhibitor can direct reactivation of pathways essential for survival. Although this mechanism of resistance is well appreciated, it is unclear which downstream signaling events are responsible. Here, we apply a combined experimental- and statistical modeling-based approach to identify a set of pathway reactivation essential for RTK-mediated bypass resistance. Differences in the downstream pathway activation provided by particular RTKs lead to qualitative differences in the capacity of each receptor to drive therapeutic resistance. We identify and validate that the JNK pathway is activated during and strongly modulates bypass resistance. These results identify effective therapeutic combinations that block bypass-mediated resistance and provide a basic understanding of this network-level change in kinase dependence that will inform the design of prognostic assays for identifying effective therapeutic combinations in individual patients. Cancer Res; 76(18); 5219-28. ©2016 AACR.

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