Statins enhance the efficacy of HER2-targeting radioligand therapy in drug-resistant gastric cancers

Yi Rao, Zachary Samuels, Lukas M. Carter, Sebastien Monette, Sandeep Surendra Panikar, Patricia M.R. Pereira, Jason S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is overexpressed in various cancer types. HER2-targeting trastuzumab plus chemotherapy is used as first-line therapy for HER2-positive recurrent or primary metastatic gastric cancer, but intrinsic and acquired trastuzumab resistance inevitably develop over time. To overcome gastric cancer resistance to HER2-targeted therapies, we have conjugated trastuzumab with a beta-emitting therapeutic isotope, lutetium-177, to deliver radiation locally to gastric tumors with minimal toxicity. Because trastuzumab-based targeted radioligand therapy (RLT) requires only the extramembrane domain binding of membrane-bound HER2 receptors, HER2-targeting RLT can bypass any resistance mechanisms that occur downstream of HER2 binding. Leveraging our previous discoveries that statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, can enhance the cell surface-bound HER2 to achieve effective drug delivery in tumors, we proposed that the combination of statins and [177Lu]Lu-trastuzumab-based RLT can enhance the therapeutic efficacy of HER2-targeted RLT in drug-resistant gastric cancers. We demonstrate that lovastatin elevates cell surface HER2 levels and increases the tumor-absorbed radiation dose of [177Lu]Lu-DOTA-trastuzumab. Furthermore, lovastatin-modulated [177Lu]Lu-DOTA-trastuzumab RLT durably inhibits tumor growth and prolongs overall survival in mice bearing NCI-N87 gastric tumors and HER2-positive patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) of known clinical resistance to trastuzumab therapy. Statins also exhibit a radioprotective effect, reducing radiotoxicity in a mice cohort given the combination of statins and [177Lu]Lu-DOTA-trastuzumab. Since statins are commonly prescribed to patients, our results strongly support the feasibility of clinical studies that combine lovastatin with HER2-targeted RLT in HER2-postive patients and trastuzumab-resistant HER2-positive patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2220413120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 4 2023


  • human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)
  • radioligand therapy
  • statins
  • trastuzumab
  • trastuzumab-resistant cancer


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