JOURNAL ARTICLE

Pharmacological blockade of fatty acid synthase (FASN) reverses acquired autoresistance to trastuzumab (Herceptin by transcriptionally inhibiting 'HER2 super-expression' occurring in high-dose trastuzumab-conditioned SKBR3/Tzb100 breast cancer cells

Alejandro Vazquez-Martin, Ramon Colomer, Joan Brunet, Javier A Menendez
International Journal of Oncology 2007, 31 (4): 769-76
17786307
Elucidating the mechanisms underlying resistance to the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted antibody trastuzumab (Tzb; Herceptin) is a major challenge that is beginning to be addressed. This dilemma is becoming increasingly important as recent studies strongly support a role for Tzb in the adjuvant setting for HER2-overexpressing early-stage breast cancers. We previously reported that pharmacological and RNA interference-induced inhibition of tumor-associated fatty acid synthase (FASN; Oncogenic antigen-519), a key metabolic enzyme catalyzing the synthesis of long-chain saturated fatty acids, drastically down-regulates HER2 expression in human breast cancer cells bearing HER2 gene amplification. Given that FASN blockade was found to suppress HER2 overexpression by attenuating the promoter activity of the HER2 gene, we here envisioned that this mechanism of action may represent a valuable strategy in breast cancers that have progressed while under Tzb. We created a preclinical model of Tzb resistance by continuously growing HER2-overexpressing SKBR3 breast cancer cells in the presence of clinically relevant concentrations of Tzb (20-185 microg/ml Tzb). This pool of Tzb-conditioned SKBR3 cells, which optimally grows now in the presence of 100 microg/ml trastuzumab (SKBR3/Tzb100 cells), exhibited HER2 levels notably higher (approximately 2-fold) than those found in SKBR3 parental cells. Real-time polymerase chain reaction studies showed that up-regulation of HER2 mRNA levels closely correlated with HER2 protein up-regulation in SKBR3/Tzb100 cells, thus suggesting that 'HER2 super-expression' upon acquisition of autoresistance to Tzb resulted, at least in part, from up-regulatory effects in the transcriptional rate of the HER2 gene. SKBR3/Tzb100 cells did not exhibit cross-resistance to C75, a small-compound specifically inhibiting FASN activity. On the contrary, SKBR3/Tzb100 cells showed a remarkably increased sensitivity (approximately 3-fold) to the cytotoxic effects occurring upon C75-induced inhibition of FASN enzymatic activity. Both HER2 mRNA and HER2 protein 'super-expression', which have not been reported in earlier Tzb-resistant breast cancer models, were entirely suppressed following pharmacological blockade of FASN activity. Moreover, while Tzb was still able to reduce HER2 protein expression by approximately 20% in SKBR/Tzb100 cells, C75 and Tzb co-exposure synergistically down-regulated HER2 protein levels by >85%. The nature of the interaction between Tzb and C75 in Tzb-resistant SKBR3/Tzb100 cells was also found to be strongly synergistic when analyzing the extent of apoptotic cell death using ELISA-based detection of histone-associated DNA fragments. In summary, a) the molecular mechanism(s) contributing to Tzb resistance in our SKBR3/Tzb100 model appear to be clearly different to those previously reported as we found important transcriptional up-regulatory transcriptional changes in HER2 gene expression levels relative to parental cells; b) since FASN inhibition acts on HER2 gene expression via reduction of its transcription rate, Tzb-conditioned HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells not only retain but further gain sensitivity to FASN inhibition; and c) transcriptional suppression of HER2 expression using FASN blockers may represent a new molecular strategy in the management of Tzb-resistant breast cancer disease.

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