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Resistance to receptor-blocking therapies primes tumors as targets for HER3-homing nanobiologics.


Resistance to anti-tumor therapeutics is an important clinical problem. Tumor-targeted therapies currently used in the clinic are derived from antibodies or small molecules that mitigate growth factor activity. These have improved therapeutic efficacy and safety compared to traditional treatment modalities but resistance arises in the majority of clinical cases. Targeting such resistance could improve tumor abatement and patient survival. A growing number of such tumors are characterized by prominent expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 3 (HER3) on the cell surface. This study presents a "Trojan-Horse" approach to combating these tumors by using a receptor-targeted biocarrier that exploits the HER3 cell surface protein as a portal to sneak therapeutics into tumor cells by mimicking an essential ligand. The biocarrier used here combines several functions within a single fusion protein for mediating targeted cell penetration and non-covalent self-assembly with therapeutic cargo, forming HER3-homing nanobiologics. Importantly, we demonstrate here that these nanobiologics are therapeutically effective in several scenarios of resistance to clinically approved targeted inhibitors of the human EGF receptor family. We also show that such inhibitors heighten efficacy of our nanobiologics on naïve tumors by augmenting HER3 expression. This approach takes advantage of a current clinical problem (i.e. resistance to growth factor inhibition) and uses it to make tumors more susceptible to HER3 nanobiologic treatment. Moreover, we demonstrate a novel approach in addressing drug resistance by taking inhibitors against which resistance arises and re-introducing these as adjuvants, sensitizing tumors to the HER3 nanobiologics described here.

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