Ado-trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) is an antibody–drug conjugate (ADC) approved for the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. It consists of trastuzumab, a humanized mAb directed against HER2, and a microtubule inhibitor, DM1, conjugated to trastuzumab via a thioether linker. Hepatotoxicity is one of the serious adverse events associated with T-DM1 therapy. Mechanisms underlying T-DM1–induced hepatotoxicity remain elusive. Here, we use hepatocytes and mouse models to investigate the mechanisms of T-DM1–induced hepatotoxicity. We show that T-DM1 is internalized upon binding to cell surface HER2 and is colocalized with LAMP1, resulting in DM1-associated cytotoxicity, including disorganized microtubules, nuclear fragmentation/multiple nuclei, and cell growth inhibition. We further demonstrate that T-DM1 treatment significantly increases the serum levels of aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, and lactate dehydrogenase in mice and induces inflammation and necrosis in liver tissues, and that T-DM1–induced hepatotoxicity is dose dependent. Moreover, the gene expression of TNFα in liver tissues is significantly increased in mice treated with T-DM1 as compared with those treated with trastuzumab or vehicle. We propose that T-DM1–induced upregulation of TNFα enhances the liver injury that may be initially caused by DM1-mediated intracellular damage. Our proposal is underscored by the fact that T-DM1 induces the outer mitochondrial membrane rupture, a typical morphologic change in the mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis, and mitochondrial membrane potential dysfunction. Our work provides mechanistic insights into T-DM1–induced hepatotoxicity, which may yield novel strategies to manage liver injury induced by T-DM1 or other ADCs. Mol Cancer Ther; 15(3); 1–11. ©2015 AACR.
- Received July 13, 2015.
- Revision received December 2, 2015.
- Accepted December 4, 2015.
- ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.