Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is commonly overexpressed in breast cancer and is associated with poor clinical outcomes; however, an increasing number of patients have shown a poor effective response to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKI). Here, we found that AXL expression was positively correlated with poor progression in breast cancer patients. Suppression of AXL by an anti-tumor protein, E1A, enhanced EGFR-TKI (gefitinib, erlotinib and lapatinib) sensitization, resulting in significant inhibition of tumor growth in breast cancer cells. Additionally, AXL overexpression dramatically impaired E1A-mediated EGFR-TKI sensitization. These findings show that downregulation of AXL expression by E1A contributes to sensitization to EGFE-TKI in breast cancer, suggesting that combinatorial therapy of AXL inhibitors or E1A gene therapy with EGFR-TKI may be a potential therapeutic strategy for treatment of breast cancer patients.
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