JOURNAL ARTICLE

Preclinical and clinical studies of estrogen deprivation support the PDGF/Abl pathway as a novel therapeutic target for overcoming endocrine resistance in breast cancer

Marion T Weigel, Zara Ghazoui, Anita Dunbier, Sunil Pancholi, Mitch Dowsett, Lesley-Ann Martin
Breast Cancer Research: BCR 2012, 14 (3): R78
22608253

INTRODUCTION: The majority of breast tumors at primary diagnosis are estrogen receptor positive (ER+). Estrogen (E) mediates its effects by binding to the ER. Therapies targeting the estrogenic stimulation of tumor growth reduce mortality from ER+ breast cancer. However, resistance remains a major clinical problem.

METHODS: To identify molecular mechanisms associated with resistance to E-deprivation, we assessed the temporal changes in global gene expression during adaptation to long-term culture of MCF7 human breast cancer cells in the absence of estradiol (E2), long term estrogen deprived (LTED), that leads to recovery of proliferative status and models resistance to an aromatase inhibitor (AI). The expression levels of proteins were determined by western blotting. Proliferation assays were carried out using the dual platelet derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR)/Abelson tyrosine kinase (Abl) inhibitor nilotinib. Luciferase reporter assays were used to determine effects on ER-mediated transactivation. Changes in recruitment of cofactors to the gene regulated by estrogen in breast cancer 1 (GREB1) promoter were determined by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). Gene expression data were derived from 81 postmenopausal women with ER+ BC pre-treatment and at two-weeks post-treatment with single agent anastrozole in a neoadjuvant trial.

RESULTS: The PDGF/Abl canonical pathway was significantly elevated as early as one week post E-deprivation (P = 1.94 E-04) and this became the top adaptive pathway at the point of proliferative recovery (P = 1.15 E-07). Both PDGFRβ and Abl protein levels were elevated in the LTED cells compared to wild type (wt)-MCF7 cells. The PDGF/Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitor nilotinib, suppressed proliferation in LTED cells in the presence or absence of E. Nilotinib also suppressed ER-mediated transcription by destabilizing the ER and reducing recruitment of amplified in breast cancer-1 (AIB1) and the CREB binding protein (CBP) to the promoter of the E-responsive gene GREB1. High PDGFRβ in primary ER+ breast cancer of 81 patients prior to neoadjuvant treatment with an AI was associated with poorer antiproliferative response. Additionally PDGFRβ expression increased after two weeks of AI therapy (1.25 fold, P = 0.003).

CONCLUSIONS: These preclinical and clinical data indicate that the PDGF/Abl signaling pathway merits clinical evaluation as a therapeutic target with endocrine therapy in ER+ breast cancer.

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