Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) tumor progression can involve partial or complete conversion to a more treatment-resistant non-small cell (NSCLC) phenotype. In a cell culture model of this phenomenon, we have previously demonstrated that insertion of the viral Harvey ras gene (v-Ha-ras) into SCLC cell lines with amplification and overexpression of the c-myc gene induced many NSCLC phenotypic features. We now report that the v-Ha-ras gene can also induce morphologic, biochemical, and growth characteristics consistent with the NSCLC phenotype in an N-myc amplified SCLC cell line, NCI-H249. We show that v-Ha-ras has novel effects on these cells, abrogating an SCLC-specific growth requirement for gastrin-releasing peptide, and inducing mRNA expression of three NSCLC-associated growth factors and receptors, platelet-derived growth factor B chain, transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α), and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R). TGF-α secretion and EGF-R also appear, consistent with the induction of an autocrine loop previously shown to be growth stimulatory for NSCLC in culture. These data suggest that N-myc and v-Ha-ras represent functional classes of genes that may complement each other in bringing about the phenotypic alterations seen during SCLC tumor progression, and suggest that such alterations might include the appearance of growth factors and receptors of potential importance for the growth of the tumor and its surrounding stroma.
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