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The broad-spectrum metalloproteinase inhibitor BB-94 inhibits growth, HER3 and Erk activation in fulvestrant-resistant breast cancer cell lines

International Journal of Oncology, Spandidos Publications, ISSN 1791-2423

Volume 45, 1, 2014

DOI:10.3892/ijo.2014.2434, Dimensions: pub.1071513501, PMID: 24819550,



  1. (1) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU






Breast cancer cells can switch from estrogen receptor α (ER)- to human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER)-driven cell growth upon acquiring antiestrogen resistance. HER ligands are cleaved by metalloproteinases leading to release of active HER ligands, activation of HER receptors and consequently increased cell growth. In this study, we investigated the importance of HER receptors, in particular HER3, and HER ligand shedding for growth and signaling in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells and MCF-7-derived sublines resistant to the antiestrogen fulvestrant. The HER3/HER4 ligand heregulin 1β induced phosphorylation of HER3, Akt and Erk, and partly rescued fulvestrant-inhibited growth of MCF-7 cells. HER3 ligands were found to be produced and shed from the fulvestrant-resistant cells as conditioned medium from fulvestrant-resistant MCF-7 cells induced phosphorylation of HER3 and Akt in MCF-7 cells. This was prevented by treatment of resistant cells with the metalloproteinase inhibitor TAPI-2. Only the broad-spectrum metalloproteinase inhibitor BB-94, and not the more selective inhibitors GM6001 or TAPI-2, which inhibited shedding of the HER ligands produced by the fulvestrant-resistant cells, was able to inhibit growth and activation of HER3 and Erk in resistant cells. Compared to MCF-7, fulvestrant-resistant cells have increased HER3 phosphorylation, but knockdown of HER3 had no inhibitory effect on resistant cell growth. The EGFR inhibitor gefitinib exhibited only a minor growth inhibition, whereas the pan-HER inhibitor CI-1033 exerted growth arrest. Thus, neither HER3 nor EGFR alone are the main driver of fulvestrant-resistant cell growth and treatment should target both receptors. Ligand shedding is not a treatment target, as receptor activation occurred, independent of release of ligands. Only the broad-spectrum metalloproteinase inhibitor BB-94 could abrogate HER3 and Erk activation in the resistant cells, which stresses the complexity of the resistance mechanisms and the requirement of targeting signaling from HER receptors by multiple strategies.


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