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HER3 targeting potentiates growth suppressive effects of the PI3K inhibitor BYL719 in pre-clinical models of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.


BYL719 is a PI3K inhibitor that has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. BYL719 exerts its therapeutic effect by suppressing AKT and other proliferative signaling mechanisms. Despite PI3K inhibition and AKT suppression, residual activity of protein S6, a core marker of proliferative activation, has been observed. HER3, either via dimerization or activation by its ligand neurgeulin (NRG), is known to activate PI3K. Thus, we hypothesized that co-targeting HER3 and PI3K would lead to greater suppression of the PI3K-AKT signaling pathway and greater tumor suppression than with BYL719 alone. We investigated biochemical expression and activation of the HER3-PI3K-AKT-S6 pathway in HNSCC cell lines and patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). Antitumor effects of HER3 and PI3K inhibitors alone and in combination were evaluated in cell culture and murine models. Treatment of HNSCC cell lines with BYL719 significantly reduced AKT activation and suppressed tumor growth. However, S6 was persistently activated despite suppression of AKT. Combination treatment with KTN3379, a monoclonal antibody targeted against HER3, and BYL719 led to enhanced suppression of in vitro and in vivo cancer growth and durable suppression of AKT and S6. Therefore, inhibition of HER3 with KTN3379 enhanced the effects of PI3K inhibition in pre-clinical HNSCC models. These data support co-targeting HER3 and PI3K for the treatment of HSNCC.

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