Hyaluronic acid-functionalized gelatin hydrogels reveal extracellular matrix signals temper the efficacy of erlotinib against patient-derived glioblastoma specimens

Sara Pedron, Gabrielle L. Wolter, Jee Wei E. Chen, Sarah E. Laken, Jann N. Sarkaria, Brendan A.C. Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Therapeutic options to treat primary glioblastoma (GBM) tumors are scarce. GBM tumors with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, in particular a constitutively active EGFRvIII mutant, have extremely poor clinical outcomes. GBM tumors with concurrent EGFR amplification and active phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) are sensitive to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor erlotinib, but the effect is not durable. A persistent challenge to improved treatment is the poorly understood role of cellular, metabolic, and biophysical signals from the GBM tumor microenvironment on therapeutic efficacy and acquired resistance. The intractable nature of studying GBM cell in vivo motivates tissue engineering approaches to replicate aspects of the complex GBM tumor microenvironment. Here, we profile the effect of erlotinib on two patient-derived GBM specimens: EGFR + GBM12 and EGFRvIII GBM6. We use a three-dimensional gelatin hydrogel to present brain-mimetic hyaluronic acid (HA) and evaluate the coordinated influence of extracellular matrix signals and EGFR mutation status on GBM cell migration, survival and proliferation, as well as signaling pathway activation in response to cyclic erlotinib exposure. Comparable to results observed in vivo for xenograft tumors, erlotinib exposure is not cytotoxic for GBM6 EGFRvIII specimens. We also identify a role of extracellular HA (via CD44) in altering the effect of erlotinib in GBM EGFR + cells by modifying STAT3 phosphorylation status. Taken together, we report an in vitro tissue engineered platform to monitor signaling associated with poor response to targeted inhibitors in GBM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119371
StatePublished - Oct 2019



  • Drug resistance
  • Glioblastoma in vitro model
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Hydrogel
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials

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