Endocrine resistance associated with activated ErbB system in breast cancer cells is reversed by inhibiting MAPK or PI3K/Akt signaling pathways

Sandra E Ghayad, Julie A Vendrell, Sabrina Ben Larbi, Charles Dumontet, Ivan Bieche, Pascale A Cohen
International Journal of Cancer. Journal International du Cancer 2010 January 15, 126 (2): 545-62
Endocrine therapy resistance is one of the main challenges in the treatment of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer patients. This study showed that two ER+ human breast carcinoma cell lines derived from MCF-7 (MVLN cells) that have acquired under OH-Tamoxifen selection two distinct phenotypes of endocrine resistance both displayed constitutive activation of the PI3K/Akt and MAPK pathways. Aberrant expression and activation of the ErbB system (phospho-EGFR, phospho-ErbB2, phospho-ErbB3, over-expression of ErbB4 and over-expression of several ErbB ligands) were also observed in the two resistant cell lines, suggesting the existence of an autocrine loop leading to constitutive activation of MAPK and PI3K/Akt survival pathways. The recent clinical use of specific signal transduction inhibitors is one of the most promising therapeutic approaches in breast cancers. The MEK inhibitor PD98059 and the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 were both able to enhance the cytostatic effect of OH-Tamoxifen or fulvestrant on MVLN sensitive cells. In the two resistant cell lines, inhibition of the MAPK or the PI3K/Akt pathways associated with endocrine therapy was sufficient to reverse OH-Tamoxifen or fulvestrant resistance. Investigating the effect of a combination of both inhibitors on the reversion of OH-Tamoxifen and fulvestrant resistance in the two resistant cell lines suggested that, in clinical practice, a strategy combining the two inhibitors would be the best approach to target the different endocrine resistance phenotypes possibly present in a tumor. In conclusion, the combination of MAPK and PI3K inhibitors represents a promising strategy to overcome endocrine therapy resistance in ER+ breast cancer patients.

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