Diarrhea is a major side effect of ErbB receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in cancer chemotherapy. Here, we show that the primary mechanism of ErbB TKI diarrhea is activation of basolateral membrane potassium (K+) channels and apical membrane chloride (Cl–) channels in intestinal epithelia and demonstrate the efficacy of channel blockers in a rat model of TKI diarrhea. Short-circuit current in colonic epithelial cells showed that the TKIs gefitinib, lapatinib, and afatinib do not affect basal secretion but amplify carbachol-stimulated secretion by 2- to 3-fold. Mechanistic studies with the second-generation TKI afatinib showed that the amplifying effect on Cl– secretion was Ca2+ and cAMP independent, was blocked by CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and K+ channel inhibitors, and involved EGFR binding and ERK signaling. Afatinib-amplified activation of basolateral K+ and apical Cl– channels was demonstrated by selective membrane permeabilization, ion substitution, and channel inhibitors. Rats that were administered afatinib orally at 60 mg/kg/day developed diarrhea with increased stool water from approximately 60% to greater than 80%, which was reduced by up to 75% by the K+ channel inhibitors clotrimazole or senicapoc or the CFTR inhibitor (R)-BPO-27. These results indicate a mechanism for TKI diarrhea involving K+ and Cl– channel activation and support the therapeutic efficacy of channel inhibitors.


Tianying Duan, Onur Cil, Jay R. Thiagarajah, Alan S. Verkman


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