Degradation of MCL-1 by bufalin reverses acquired resistance to osimertinib in EGFR-mutant lung cancer.
Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2019 Sep 15 ;379:114662. Epub 2019 Jul 10. PMID: 31301315
Although osimertinib, an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, has become the standard therapy for treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with EGFR-activating mutation, upregulation of MCL-1 induces acquired resistance to osimertinib. Bufalin, a natural digoxin-like ingredient isolated from a traditional Chinese medicine Chan Su, has been shown to downregulate MCL-1 in NSCLC cells. However, whether bufalin reverses this acquired resistance to osimertinib in NSCLC cells remains unclear. In this study, bufalin reduced cell viability and promoted apoptosis in osimertinib-resistant cells. Moreover, co-treatment with bufalin and osimertinib restored the sensitivity of osimertinib-resistant cells to osimertinib-induced growth regression and apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, MEK/ERK-dependent MCL-1 phosphorylation and Ku70-mediated MCL-1 overexpression confer osimertinib resistance in EGFR-mutant NSCLC cells. In osimertinib-resistant cells, bufalin modulates Ku70-mediated MCL-1 degradation, but not MEK/ERK/MCL-1 signaling. In conclusion, our study suggests that bufalin eliminates resistance to osimertinib by inhibiting Ku70-mediated MCL-1 overexpression, indicating that a combination of osimertinib and bufalin could be an effective additional treatment to overcome acquired resistance to osimertinib in NSCLC cells.