Sana Hosni, Viola Kilian, Niklas Klümper, Daniela Gabbia, Katharina Sieckmann, Dillon Corvino, Anja Winkler, Miriam Saponaro, Karin Woersdoerfer, Doris Schmidt, Oliver Hahn, Ilaria Zanotto, Marina Bertlich, Marieta Toma, Tobias Bald, Markus Eckstein, Michael Hölzel, Matthias Geyer, Manuel Ritter, Dagmar Wachten, Sara De Martin, Abdullah Alajati

Adipocyte precursor-derived NRG1 promotes resistance to FGFR inhibition in urothelial carcinoma

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

Abstract Aberrations of the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) family members are frequently observed in metastatic urothelial cancer (mUC), and blocking the FGF/FGFR signaling axis is used as a targeted therapeutic strategy for treating patients. Erdafitinib is a pan-FGFR inhibitor that has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for mUC with FGFR2/3 alterations. Although mUC patients show initial response to erdafitinib, acquired resistance rapidly develops. Here, we found that adipocyte precursors promoted resistance to erdafitinib in FGFR-dependent bladder and lung cancer in a paracrine manner. Moreover, neuregulin 1 (NRG1) secreted from adipocyte precursors was a mediator of erdafitinib resistance by activating human epidermal growth factor receptor 3 (ERBB3 also known as HER3) signaling, and knockdown of NRG1 in adipocyte precursors abrogated the conferred paracrine resistance. NRG1 expression was significantly downregulated in terminally differentiated adipocytes compared to their progenitors. Pharmacological inhibition of the NRG1/HER3 axis using pertuzumab reversed erdafitinib resistance in tumor cells in vitro and prolonged survival of mice bearing bladder cancer xenografts in vivo. Remarkably, data from single-cell RNA-sequencing revealed that NRG1 was enriched in platelet-derived growth factor receptor-A (PDGFRA) expressing inflammatory cancer-associated fibroblasts, which is also expressed on adipocyte precursors. Together, this work reveals a paracrine mechanism of anti-FGFR resistance in bladder cancer, and potentially other cancers, that is amenable to inhibition using available targeted therapies.

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