Improving response to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeted therapies in patients with advanced wild-type (WT) RAS colorectal cancer (CRC) remains an unmet need. In this preclinical work, we evaluated a new therapeutic combination aimed at enhancing efficacy by targeting cancer cell metabolism in concert with EGFR. We hypothesized that combined blockade of glutamine metabolism and EGFR represents a promising treatment approach by targeting both the “fuel” and “signaling” components that these tumors need to survive. To explore this hypothesis, we combined CB-839, an inhibitor of glutaminase 1 (GLS1), the mitochondrial enzyme responsible for catalyzing conversion of glutamine to glutamate, with cetuximab, an EGFR-targeted monoclonal antibody in preclinical models of CRC. 2D and 3D in vitro assays were executed following treatment with either single agent or combination therapy. The combination of cetuximab with CB-839 resulted in reduced cell viability and demonstrated synergism in several cell lines. In vivo efficacy experiments were performed in cell-line xenograft models propagated in athymic nude mice. Tumor volumes were measured followed by immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis of proliferation (Ki67), mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling (pS6), and multiple mechanisms of cell death to annotate molecular determinants of response. In vivo, a significant reduction in tumor growth and reduced Ki67 and pS6 IHC staining were observed with combination therapy, which was accompanied by increased apoptosis and/or necrosis. The combination showed efficacy in cetuximab-sensitive as well as resistant models. In conclusion, this therapeutic combination represents a promising new precision medicine approach for patients with refractory metastatic WT RAS CRC.
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