Transcriptome Profiling of Acquired Gefitinib Resistant Lung Cancer Cells Reveals Dramatically Changed Transcription Programs and New Treatment Targets

Nan Wei, Yong'an Song, Fan Zhang, Zhifu Sun, Xiaoju Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Targeted therapy for lung cancer with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) represents one of the major breakthroughs in lung cancer management. However, gradually developed resistance to these drugs prevents sustained clinical benefits and calls for resistant mechanism research and identification of new therapeutic targets. Acquired T790M mutation accounts for the majority of resistance cases, yet transcriptome changes in these cells are less characterized, and it is not known if new treatment targets exist by available drugs. Methods: Transcriptome profiling was performed for lung cancer cell line PC9 and its resistant line PC9GR after long-term exposure to gefitinib through RNA sequencing. Differentially expressed genes and changed pathways were identified along with existing drugs targeting these upregulated genes. Using 144 lung cancer cell lines with both gene expression and drug response data from the cancer cell line encyclopedia (CCLE) and Cancer Therapeutics Response Portal (CTRP), we screened 549 drugs whose response was correlated with these upregulated genes in PC9GR cells, and top drugs were evaluated for their response in both PC9 and PC9GR cells. Results: In addition to the acquired T790M mutation, the resistant PC9GR cells had very different transcription programs from the sensitive PC9 cells. Multiple pathways were changed with the top ones including TNFA signaling, androgen/estrogen response, P53 pathway, MTORC1 signaling, hypoxia, and epithelial mesenchymal transition. Thirty-two upregulated genes had available drugs that can potentially be effective in treating the resistant cells. From the response profiles of CCLE, we found 17 drugs whose responses were associated with at least four of these upregulated genes. Among the four drugs evaluated (dasatinib, KPT-185, trametinib, and pluripotin), all except trametinib demonstrated strong inhibitory effects on the resistant PC9GR cells, among which KPT185 was the most potent. KPT-185 suppressed growth, caused apoptosis, and inhibited migration of the PC9GR cells at similar (or better) rates as the sensitive PC9 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Conclusions: Acquired TKI-resistant lung cancer cells (PC9GR) have dramatically changed transcription and pathway regulation, which expose new treatment targets. Existing drugs may be repurposed to treat those patients with developed resistance to TKIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1424
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Aug 14 2020


  • EGFR mutation
  • KPT-185
  • RNA sequencing
  • dasatinib
  • drug resistance
  • gefitinib
  • lung adenocarcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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