Neuregulin autocrine signaling promotes self-renewal of breast tumor-initiating cells by triggering HER2/HER3 activation.
ABSTRACT: Currently, only patients with HER2-positive tumors are candidates for HER2-targeted therapies. However, recent clinical observations suggest that the survival of patients with HER2-low breast cancers, who lack HER2 amplification, may benefit from adjuvant therapy that targets HER2. In this study, we explored a mechanism through which these benefits may be obtained. Prompted by the hypothesis that HER2/HER3 signaling in breast tumor-initiating cells (TIC) promotes self-renewal and survival, we obtained evidence that neuregulin 1 (NRG1) produced by TICs promotes their proliferation and self-renewal in HER2-low tumors, including in triple-negative breast tumors. Pharmacologic inhibition of EGFR, HER2, or both receptors reduced breast TIC survival and self-renewal in vitro and in vivo and increased TIC sensitivity to ionizing radiation. Through a tissue microarray analysis, we found that NRG1 expression and associated HER2 activation occurred in a subset of HER2-low breast cancers. Our results offer an explanation for why HER2 inhibition blocks the growth of HER2-low breast tumors. Moreover, they argue that dual inhibition of EGFR and HER2 may offer a useful therapeutic strategy to target TICs in these tumors. In generating a mechanistic rationale to apply HER2-targeting therapies in patients with HER2-low tumors, this work shows why these therapies could benefit a considerably larger number of patients with breast cancer than they currently reach.
Project description:Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)/Neu is overexpressed in 20-30% of breast cancers and associated with aggressive phenotypes and poor prognosis. For deciphering the role of HER2/Neu in breast cancer, mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV)-Her2/neu transgenic mice that develop mammary tumors resembling human HER2-subtype breast cancer have been established. Several recent studies have revealed that HER2/Neu is overexpressed in and regulates self renewal of breast tumor-initiating cells (TICs). However, in the MMTV-Her2/neu transgenic mouse model, the identity of TICs remains elusive, despite previous studies showing supportive evidence for existence of TICs in Her2/neu-induced mammary tumors. Through systematic screening and characterization, we identified that surface markers CD49f, CD61 and ESA were aberrantly overexpressed in Her2-overexpressing mammary tumor cells. Analysis of these markers and CD24 detected anomalous expansion of the luminal progenitor population in preneoplastic mammary glands of Her2/neu transgenic mice, indicating that aberrant luminal progenitors originated in Her2-induced mammary tumors. The combined markers, CD49f and CD61, further delineated the CD49f(high)CD61(high)-sorted fraction as a TIC-enriched population, which displayed increased tumorsphere formation ability, enhanced tumorigenicity both in vitro and in vivo and drug resistance to pacitaxel and doxorubicin. Moreover, the TIC-enriched population manifested increased transforming growth factor-? (TGF?) signaling and exhibited gene expression signatures of stemness, TGF? signaling and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Our findings that self-renewal and clonogenicity of TICs were suppressed by pharmacologically inhibiting the TGF? signaling further indicate that the TGF? pathway is vital for maintenance of the TIC population. Finally, we showed that the integrin-?3 (CD61) signaling pathway was required for sustaining active TGF? signaling and self-renewal of TICs. We for the first time developed a technique to highly enrich TICs from mammary tumors of Her2/neu transgenic mice, unraveled their properties and identified the cooperative integrin-?3-TGF? signaling axis as a potential therapeutic target for HER2-induced TICs.
Project description:Emerging evidence suggests that some cancers contain a population of stem-like TICs (tumor-initiating cells) and eliminating TICs may offer a new strategy to develop successful anti-cancer therapies. As molecular mechanisms underlying the maintenance of the TIC pool are poorly understood, the development of TIC-specific therapeutics remains a major challenge. We first identified and characterized TICs and non-TICs isolated from a mouse breast cancer model. TICs displayed increased tumorigenic potential, self-renewal, heterogeneous differentiation, and bipotency. Gene expression analysis and immunostaining of TICs and non-TICs revealed that FGFR2 was preferentially expressed in TICs. Loss of FGFR2 impaired self-renewal of TICs, thus resulting in marked decreases in the TIC population and tumorigenic potential. Restoration of FGFR2 rescued the defects in TIC pool maintenance, bipotency, and breast tumor growth driven by FGFR2 knockdown. In addition, pharmacological inhibition of FGFR2 kinase activity led to a decrease in the TIC population which resulted in suppression of breast tumor growth. Moreover, human breast TICs isolated from patient tumor samples were found enriched in a FGFR2+ population that was sufficient to initiate tumor growth. Our data suggest that FGFR2 is essential in sustaining the breast TIC pool through promotion of self-renewal and maintenance of bipotent TICs, and raise the possibility of FGFR2 inhibition as a strategy for anti-cancer therapy by eradicating breast TICs.
Project description:Tumor initiating cells (TICs) serve as the root of tumor growth. After identifying TICs in spontaneous breast tumors of the MMTV-Wnt1 mouse model, we confirmed the specific expression and activation of Yes-associated protein 1 (Yap1) within TICs. To investigate the role of Yap1 in the self-renewal of breast TICs and the underlying mechanism, we sorted CD49fhighEpCAMlow cells as breast TICs. Active Yap1 with ectopic expression in breast TICs promoted their colony formation in vitro (p< 0.01) and self-renewal in vivo (p< 0.01), and led to a 4-fold increase in TIC frequency (p< 0.05).A conditional knock-out mouse was reconstructed to generate Yap1 knock-out breast tumors. The loss of Yap1 led to a dramatic growth disadvantage of breast TICs in vitro (p< 0.01) and in vivo (p< 0.01), and it also led to an over 200-fold decrease in TIC frequency (p< 0.01). The expression of active Yap1 was negatively correlated with that of phosphorylated Smad3 (p-Smad3).Transforming growth factor ? (TGF-?) served as a strong enhancer of Smad3 and an inhibitor of clonogenesis of TICs. The presence of SIS3, a specific inhibitor of Smad3, could rescue the TGF-? -induced growth inhibition and reverse the Smad3 inhibition by Yap1. Analysis of a database containing 2,072 human breast cancer samples showed that higher expressions of Yap1 correlated with a poorer outcome of a 15-year survival rate and median overall survival (mOS)in patients, especially in those with basal breast tumors without estrogen receptor 1 (ER) expression. The findings indicate that active Yap1 promotes the self-renewal of breast TICs by inhibiting Smad3 signaling.
Project description:The anticancer actions of vitamin D and its hormonally active form, calcitriol, have been extensively documented in clinical and preclinical studies. However, the mechanisms underlying these actions have not been completely elucidated. Here, we examined the effect of dietary vitamin D and calcitriol on mouse breast tumor-initiating cells (TICs, also known as cancer stem cells). We focused on MMTV-Wnt1 mammary tumors, for which markers for isolating TICs have previously been validated. We confirmed that these tumors expressed functional vitamin D receptors and estrogen receptors (ER) and exhibited calcitriol-induced molecular responses including ER downregulation. Following orthotopic implantation of MMTV-Wnt1 mammary tumor cells into mice, calcitriol injections or a vitamin D-supplemented diet caused a striking delay in tumor appearance and growth, whereas a vitamin D-deficient diet accelerated tumor appearance and growth. Calcitriol inhibited TIC tumor spheroid formation in a dose-dependent manner in primary cultures and inhibited TIC self-renewal in secondary passages. A combination of calcitriol and ionizing radiation inhibited spheroid formation more than either treatment alone. Further, calcitriol significantly decreased TIC frequency as evaluated by in vivo limiting dilution analyses. Calcitriol inhibition of TIC spheroid formation could be overcome by the overexpression of ?-catenin, suggesting that the inhibition of Wnt/?-catenin pathway is an important mechanism mediating the TIC inhibitory activity of calcitriol in this tumor model. Our findings indicate that vitamin D compounds target breast TICs reducing tumor-initiating activity. Our data also suggest that combining vitamin D compounds with standard therapies may enhance anticancer activity and improve therapeutic outcomes.
Project description:Although tumor-initiating cell (TIC) self-renewal has been postulated to be essential in progression and metastasis formation of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC), clonal dynamics of TICs within PDAC tumors are yet unknown. Here, we show that long-term progression of PDAC in serial xenotransplantation is driven by a succession of transiently active TICs producing tumor cells in temporally restricted bursts. Clonal tracking of individual, genetically marked TICs revealed that individual tumors are generated by distinct sets of TICs with very little overlap between subsequent xenograft generations. An unexpected functional and phenotypic plasticity of pancreatic TICs in vivo underlies the recruitment of inactive TIC clones in serial xenografts. The observed clonal succession of TIC activity in serial xenotransplantation is in stark contrast to the continuous activity of limited numbers of self-renewing TICs within a fixed cellular hierarchy observed in other epithelial cancers and emphasizes the need to target TIC activation, rather than a fixed TIC population, in PDAC.
Project description:The cancer stem cell model maintains that tumors are organized in a hierarchy driven by tumor initiating cells (TICs), and that patient survival inversely correlates with TIC gene expression. Here we generated a prognostic signature for HER2+ breast cancer from TICs purified from MMTV-Her2/Neu mammary tumors. TICs from this model, identified as Lin-:CD24+:JAG1- at a frequency of 2-5% by serial and single cell transplantation assays, showed elevated expression of proliferation genes and low expression of differentiation genes (compared to non-TIC fraction CD24- of the same tumor). We used microarrays to detect differentially expressed genes in the TIC fraction compared to the non-TIC fraction of the same tumor Cells from each primary tumor were separated by FACS into TIC and non-TIC fractions and total RNA was extracted and hybridized on Affymetrix microarrays.
Project description:Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2-positive (HER2(+)) breast cancer (BC) is a highly aggressive disease commonly treated with chemotherapy and anti-HER2 drugs, including trastuzumab. There is currently no way to predict which HER2(+) BC patients will benefit from these treatments. Previous prognostic signatures for HER2(+) BC were developed irrespective of the subtype or the hierarchical organization of cancer in which only a fraction of cells, tumor-initiating cells (TICs), can sustain tumor growth. Here, we used serial dilution and single-cell transplantation assays to identify MMTV-Her2/Neu mouse mammary TICs as CD24(+):JAG1(-) at a frequency of 2-4.5%. A 17-gene Her2-TIC-enriched signature (HTICS), generated on the basis of differentially expressed genes in TIC versus non-TIC fractions and trained on one HER2(+) BC cohort, predicted clinical outcome on multiple independent HER2(+) cohorts. HTICS included up-regulated genes involved in S/G2/M transition and down-regulated genes involved in immune response. Its prognostic power was independent of other predictors, stratified lymph node(+) HER2(+) BC into low and high-risk subgroups, and was specific for HER2(+):estrogen receptor alpha-negative (ER?(-)) patients (10-y overall survival of 83.6% for HTICS(-) and 24.0% for HTICS(+) tumors; hazard ratio = 5.57; P = 0.002). Whereas HTICS was specific to HER2(+):ER?(-) tumors, a previously reported stroma-derived signature was predictive for HER2(+):ER?(+) BC. Retrospective analyses revealed that patients with HTICS(+) HER2(+):ER?(-) tumors resisted chemotherapy but responded to chemotherapy plus trastuzumab. HTICS is, therefore, a powerful prognostic signature for HER2(+):ER?(-) BC that can be used to identify high risk patients that would benefit from anti-HER2 therapy.
Project description:Liver cancer has a tendency to develop asymptomatically in patients, so most patients are diagnosed at a later stage. Accumulating evidence implicates that liver tumour-initiating cells (TICs) as being responsible for liver cancer initiation and recurrence. However, the molecular mechanism of liver TIC self-renewal is poorly understood. Here we discover that a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) termed LncSox4 is highly expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tissues and in liver TICs. We find that LncSox4 is required for liver TIC self-renewal and tumour initiation. LncSox4 interacts with and recruits Stat3 to the Sox4 promoter to initiate the expression of Sox4, which is highly expressed in liver TICs and required for liver TIC self-renewal. The expression level of Sox4 correlates with HCC development, clinical severity and prognosis of patients. Altogether, we find that LncSox4 is highly expressed in liver TICs and is required for their self-renewal.
Project description:Liver tumor-initiating cells (TICs), the drivers for liver tumorigenesis, accounts for liver tumor initiation, metastasis, drug resistance and relapse. Wnt/?-catenin signaling pathway emerges as a critical modulator in liver TIC self-renewal. However, the molecular mechanism of Wnt/?-catenin initiation in liver tumorigenesis and liver TICs is still elusive. Here, we examined the expression pattern of 10 Wnt receptors (FZD1-FZD10), and found only FZD6 is overexpressed along with liver tumorigenesis. What's more, a divergent lncRNA of FZD6, termed lncFZD6, is also highly expressed in liver cancer and liver TICs. LncFZD6 drives liver TIC self-renewal and tumor initiation capacity through FZD6-dependent manner. LncFZD6 interacts with BRG1-embedded SWI/SNF complex and recruits it to FZD6 promoter, and thus drives the transcriptional initiation of FZD6 by chromatin remodeling. WNT5A, a ligand of FZD6, is highly expressed in liver non-TICs and drives the self-renewal of liver TICs through lncFZD6-BRG1-FZD6-dependent manner. Through FZD6 transcriptional regulation in cis, lncFZD6 activates Wnt/?-catenin signaling in liver TICs. LncFZD6-BRG1-Wnt5A/?-catenin pathway can serve as a target for liver TIC elimination. Altogether, lncFZD6 promotes Wnt/?-catenin activation and liver TIC self-renewal through BRG1-dependent FZD6 expression.
Project description:Tumor-initiating cells (TICs) are cancer cells endowed with self-renewal, multi-lineage differentiation, increased chemo-resistance, and in breast cancers the CD44+/CD24-/ALDH1+ phenotype. Triple negative breast cancers show lack of BRCA1 expression in addition to enhanced basal, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and TIC phenotypes. BRCA1-IRIS (hereafter IRIS) is an oncogene produced by the alternative usage of the BRCA1 locus. IRIS is involved in induction of replication, transcription of selected oncogenes, and promoting breast cancer cells aggressiveness. Here, we demonstrate that IRIS overexpression (IRISOE) promotes TNBCs through suppressing BRCA1 expression, enhancing basal-biomarkers, EMT-inducers, and stemness-enforcers expression. IRISOE also activates the TIC phenotype in TNBC cells through elevating CD44 and ALDH1 expression/activity and preventing CD24 surface presentation by activating the internalization pathway EGFR?c-Src?cortactin. We show that the intrinsic sensitivity to an anti-CD24 cross-linking antibody-induced cell death in membranous CD24 expressing/luminal A cells could be acquired in cytoplasmic CD24 expressing IRISOE TNBC/TIC cells through IRIS silencing or inactivation. We show that fewer IRISOE TNBC/TICs cells form large tumors composed of TICs, resembling TNBCs early lesions in patients that contain metastatic precursors capable of disseminating and metastasizing at an early stage of the disease. IRIS-inhibitory peptide killed these IRISOE TNBC/TICs, in vivo and prevented their dissemination and metastasis. We propose IRIS inactivation could be pursued to prevent dissemination and metastasis from early TNBC tumor lesions in patients.