Trastuzumab is an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapy capable of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) and used in the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer. Through interactions with FcƴR+ immune cell subsets, trastuzumab functions as a passive immunotherapy. The EGFR/HER2-targeting tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lapatinib and the next generation TKIs afatinib and neratinib, can alter HER2 levels, potentially modulating the ADCC response to trastuzumab. Using LDH-release assays, we investigated the impact of antigen modulation, assay duration and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) activity on trastuzumab-mediated ADCC in breast cancer models of maximal (SKBR3) and minimal (MCF-7) target antigen expression to determine if modulating the ADCC response to trastuzumab using TKIs may be a viable approach for enhancing tumor immune reactivity. HER2 levels were determined in lapatinib, afatinib and neratinib-treated SKBR3 and MCF-7 using high content analysis (HCA). Trastuzumab-mediated ADCC was assessed following treatment with TKIs utilising a colorimetric LDH release-based protocol at 4 and 12h timepoints. PBMC activity was assessed against non-MHC-restricted K562 cells. A flow cytometry-based method (CFSE/7-AAD) was also used to measure trastuzumab-mediated ADCC in medium-treated SKBR3 and MCF-7. HER2 antigen levels were significantly altered by the three TKIs in both cell line models. The TKIs significantly reduced LDH levels directly in SKBR3 cells but not MCF-7. Lapatinib and neratinib augment trastuzumab-related ADCC in SKBR3 but the effect was not consistent with antigen expression levels and was dependent on volunteer PBMC activity (vs. K562). A 12h assay timepoint produced more consistent results. Trastuzumab-mediated ADCC (PBMC:target cell ratio of 10:1) was measured at 7.6±4.7% (T12) by LDH assay and 19±3.2 % (T12) using the flow cytometry-based method in the antigen-low model MCF-7. In the presence of effector cells with high cytotoxic capacity, TKIs have the ability to augment the passive immunotherapeutic potential of trastuzumab in SKBR3, a model of HER2+ breast cancer. ADCC levels detected by LDH release assays are extremely low in MCF-7; the flow cytometry-based CFSE/7-AAD method is more sensitive and consistent for the determination of ADCC in HER2-low models.
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