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CENP-E inhibition induces chromosomal instability and synergizes with diverse microtubule-targeting agents in breast cancer.

Cancer Research 2024 June 5
Drugs that perturb microtubules are commonly used to treat breast cancers of all subtypes in both early stage and metastatic disease, but they are only effective in approximately 50% of patients. High concentrations of microtubule-targeting agents can elicit mitotic arrest in cell culture models; however, recent evidence from primary and metastatic breast cancers revealed that they only accumulate at intratumoral levels capable of inducing abnormal multipolar mitotic spindles, not mitotic arrest. While maintenance of multipolar spindles can generate cytotoxic rates of chromosomal instability (CIN), focusing of aberrant multipolar spindles into normal bipolar spindles dramatically reduces CIN and confers resistance to microtubule poisons. Here, we showed that inhibition of the mitotic kinesin CENP-E overcomes resistance caused by focusing multipolar spindles. Clinically relevant microtubule-targeting agents used a mechanistically conserved pathway to induce multipolar spindles without requiring centrosome amplification. Focusing could occur at any point in mitosis, with earlier focusing conferring greater resistance to anti-microtubule agents. CENP-E inhibition increased CIN on focused spindles by generating chromosomes that remained misaligned at spindle poles during anaphase, which substantially increased death in the resulting daughter cells. CENP-E inhibition synergized with diverse, clinically relevant microtubule poisons to potentiate cell death in cell lines and suppress tumor growth in orthotopic tumor models. These results suggest that primary resistance to microtubule-targeting drugs can be overcome by simultaneous inhibition of CENP-E.

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