Anti-Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) Antibodies Overcome Resistance of Ovarian Cancer Cells to Targeted Therapy and Natural Cytotoxicity

The poor outcome of advanced ovarian cancer under conventional therapy stimulated the exploration of new strategies to improve therapeutic efficacy. In our preclinical in vitro study we investigated a combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Combination treatment with the anti-EGFR-antibody Cetuximab, related tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) and cytolytic NK cells was tested against different ovarian cancer cell lines and primary tumour cells cultured from patient ascites. We found that selected ovarian cancer cells were susceptible to cetuximab and anti-EGFR-TKI-treatment, while the majority of cell lines were resistant to single or combination treatment with both substances. In addition, most ovarian cancer cells displayed low susceptibility to natural cytotoxicity of unstimulated NK cells. Notably, NK cytotoxicity against resistant ovarian cancer cells could be effectively enhanced by addition of Cetuximab mediating antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Neither natural cytotoxicity nor ADCC of NK cells were negatively affected by the presence of TKIs. ADCC could be further increased when NK cells were pre-stimulated with monocytes and the immunostimulatory mycobacterial protein PstS-1. Our data suggest that targeted antibody therapy could be beneficial even against resistant tumour cells by augmenting supplementary cytolytic NK functions. Future studies should evaluate the combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapeutic approaches in patients with advanced ovarian cancer being resistant to standard treatment.


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