Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)

Document Type





Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Esther P. Black

Second Advisor

Dr. Val Adams


The introduction of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors to the clinic has resulted in an improvement in the treatment of non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, many patients treated with EGFR TKIs do not respond to therapy. The burden of failed treatment is largely placed on the healthcare field, limiting the effectiveness of EGFR TKIs. Furthermore, responses are hindered by the emergence of resistance. Thus, two questions must be addressed to achieve maximum benefit of EGFR inhibitors: How can patients who will benefit from EGFR TKIs be selected a priori? How can patients who respond achieve maximal benefit? To answer these questions, two hypotheses were formed. First, the EGFR-dependent phenotype, which is displayed by the tumors cells of those patients who respond clinically to EGFR TKIs, can be captured by genomic profiling of NSCLC cell lines stratified by sensitivity to EGFR TKIs. This gene signature may be used to predict the outcome of EGFR TKI therapy in unknown samples. Secondly, the predictive signature of response to EGFR TKI could provide insights into the underlying biology of the phenotype of EGFR-dependency. This information could be exploited to identify inhibitors which could be combined with EGFR inhibitors to elicit a greater effect, thereby minimizing resistance. The work herein describes the testing of these hypotheses.

Pharmacogenomics was utilized to define a signature of EGFR-dependency which effectively predicted response to EGFR TKI in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, the signature was analyzed by bioinformatic approaches to identify the RAS/MAPK pathway as a candidate target in EGFR-dependent NSCLC. The RAS/MAPK pathway regulates expression and activation of EGF-like ligands. Furthermore, the RAS/MAPK pathway modulates EGFR stability in the EGFR-dependent phenotype. Further biochemical analyses demonstrated that the RAS/MAPK pathway mediates proliferation and survival of EGFR-dependent NSCLC cells. Finally, combinatorial treatment of EGFR-dependent NSCLC cell lines with small molecules targeting EGFR and the RAS/MAPK pathway yielded cytotoxic synergy. Thus, we have used pharmacogenomics methods to potentially improve NSCLC treatment by developing a method of predicting response and identifying an additional target to combine with EGFR TKIs to maximize responses.