First published December 5, 2019 - More info
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and MEK inhibitors (EGFR/MEKi) are beneficial for the treatment of solid cancers but are frequently associated with severe therapy-limiting acneiform skin toxicities. The underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Using gene expression profiling we identified IL-36γ and IL-8 as candidate drivers of EGFR/MEKi skin toxicity. We provide molecular and translational evidence that EGFR/MEKi in concert with the skin commensal bacterium Cutibacterium acnes act synergistically to induce IL-36γ in keratinocytes and subsequently IL-8, leading to cutaneous neutrophilia. IL-36γ expression was the combined result of C. acnes-induced NF-κB activation and EGFR/MEKi-mediated expression of the transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4), due to the presence of both NF-κB- and KLF4-binding sites in the human IL-36γ gene promoter. EGFR/MEKi increased KLF4 expression by blockade of the EGFR-MEK-ERK pathway. These results provide an insight into understanding the pathological mechanism of the acneiform skin toxicities induced by EGFR/MEKi and identify IL-36γ and the transcription factor KLF4 as potential therapeutic targets.