Therapeutic Potential of Focal Adhesion Kinase Inhibition in Small Cell Lung Cancer.


Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) has a poor prognosis. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase regulating cell proliferation, survival, migration, and invasion, which is overexpressed and/or activated in several cancers, including SCLC. We wanted to determine whether FAK contributes to SCLC aggressive behavior. We first evaluated the effect of FAK small-molecule inhibitor PF-573,228 in NCI-H82, NCI-H146, NCI-H196, and NCI-H446 SCLC cell lines. PF-573,228 (0.1-5 μmol/L) inhibited FAK activity by decreasing phospho-FAK (Tyr397), without modifying total FAK expression. PF-573,228 decreased proliferation, decreased DNA synthesis, induced cell-cycle arrest in G-M phases, and increased apoptosis in all cell lines. PF-573,228 also decreased motility in adherent cell lines. To make sure that these effects were not off-target, we then used a genetic method to inhibit FAK in NCI-H82 and NCI-H446, namely stable transduction with FAK shRNA and/or FAK-related nonkinase (FRNK), a splice variant lacking the N-terminal and kinase domains. Although FAK shRNA transduction decreased total and phospho-FAK (Tyr397) expression, it did not affect proliferation, DNA synthesis, or progression through cell cycle. However, restoration of FAK-targeting (FAT) domain (attached to focal adhesion complex where it inhibits pro-proliferative proteins such as Rac-1) by FRNK transduction inhibited proliferation, DNA synthesis, and induced apoptosis. Moreover, although FAK shRNA transduction increased active Rac1 level, FRNK reexpression in cells previously transduced with FAK shRNA decreased it. Therefore, FAK appears important in SCLC biology and targeting its kinase domain may have a therapeutic potential, while targeting its FAT domain should be avoided to prevent Rac1-mediated protumoral activity.