Therapy with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs, such as gefitinib or erlotinib) significantly prolongs survival time for patients with tumors harboring an activated mutation on EGFR; however, up to 40% of lung cancer patients exhibit acquired resistance to EGFR-TKIs with an unknown mechanism. FOXO3a, a transcription factor of the forkhead family, triggers apoptosis, but the mechanistic details involved in EGFR-TKI resistance and cancer stemness remain largely unclear. Here, we observed that a high level of FOXO3a was correlated with EGFR mutation-independent EGFR-TKI sensitivity, the suppression of cancer stemness, and better progression-free survival in lung cancer patients. The suppression of FOXO3a obviously increased gefitinib resistance and enhanced the stem-like properties of lung cancer cells; consistent overexpression of FOXO3a in gefitinib-resistant lung cancer cells reduced these effects. Moreover, we identified that miR-155 targeted the 3'UTR of FOXO3a and was transcriptionally regulated by NF-?B, leading to repressed FOXO3a expression and increased gefitinib resistance, as well as enhanced cancer stemness of lung cancer in vitro and in vivo. Our findings indicate that FOXO3a is a significant factor in EGFR mutation-independent gefitinib resistance and the stemness of lung cancer, and suggest that targeting the NF- ?B/miR-155/FOXO3a pathway has potential therapeutic value in lung cancer with the acquisition of resistance to EGFR-TKIs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2526-E2535
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - May 3 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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