Upregulation of ER Signaling as an Adaptive Mechanism of Cell Survival in HER2-Positive Breast Tumors Treated with Anti-HER2 Therapy.
ABSTRACT: To investigate the direct effect and therapeutic consequences of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeting therapy on expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and Bcl2 in preclinical models and clinical tumor samples.Archived xenograft tumors from two preclinical models (UACC812 and MCF7/HER2-18) treated with ER and HER2-targeting therapies and also HER2+ clinical breast cancer specimens collected in a lapatinib neoadjuvant trial (baseline and week 2 posttreatment) were used. Expression levels of ER and Bcl2 were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis. The effects of Bcl2 and ER inhibition, by ABT-737 and fulvestrant, respectively, were tested in parental versus lapatinib-resistant UACC812 cells in vitro.Expression of ER and Bcl2 was significantly increased in xenograft tumors with acquired resistance to anti-HER2 therapy compared with untreated tumors in both preclinical models (UACC812: ER P = 0.0014; Bcl2 P < 0.001 and MCF7/HER2-18: ER P = 0.0007; Bcl2 P = 0.0306). In the neoadjuvant clinical study, lapatinib treatment for 2 weeks was associated with parallel upregulation of ER and Bcl2 (Spearman coefficient: 0.70; P = 0.0002). Importantly, 18% of tumors originally ER-negative (ER(-)) converted to ER(+) upon anti-HER2 therapy. In ER(-)/HER2(+) MCF7/HER2-18 xenografts, ER reexpression was primarily observed in tumors responding to potent combination of anti-HER2 drugs. Estrogen deprivation added to this anti-HER2 regimen significantly delayed tumor progression (P = 0.018). In the UACC812 cells, fulvestrant, but not ABT-737, was able to completely inhibit anti-HER2-resistant growth (P < 0.0001).HER2 inhibition can enhance or restore ER expression with parallel Bcl2 upregulation, representing an ER-dependent survival mechanism potentially leading to anti-HER2 resistance.
Project description:CALGB 40302 sought to determine whether lapatinib would improve progression-free survival (PFS) among women with hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer treated with fulvestrant.Eligible women had estrogen receptor-positive and/or progesterone receptor-positive tumors, regardless of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status, and prior aromatase inhibitor treatment. Patients received fulvestrant 500 mg intramuscularly on day 1, followed by 250 mg on days 15 and 28 and every 4 weeks thereafter, and either lapatinib 1,500 mg or placebo daily. The study planned to accrue 324 patients and was powered for a 50% improvement in PFS with lapatinib from 5 to 7.5 months.At the third planned interim analysis, the futility boundary was crossed, and the data and safety monitoring board recommend study closure, having accrued 295 patients. At the final analysis, there was no difference in PFS (hazard ratio [HR] of placebo to lapatinib, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.82 to 1.33; P = .37); median PFS was 4.7 months for fulvestrant plus lapatinib versus 3.8 months for fulvestrant plus placebo. There was no difference in overall survival (OS) (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.68 to 1.21; P = .25). For HER2-normal tumors, median PFS did not differ by treatment arm (4.1 v 3.8 months). For HER2-positive tumors, lapatinib was associated with longer median PFS (5.9 v 3.3 months), but the differential treatment effect by HER2 status was not significant (P = .53). The most frequent toxicities were diarrhea, fatigue, and rash associated with lapatinib.Adding lapatinib to fulvestrant does not improve PFS or OS in advanced ER-positive breast cancer and is more toxic.
Project description:PURPOSE:We examined the role of ERBB2-activating mutations in endocrine therapy resistance in estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:ERBB2 mutation frequency was determined from large genomic databases. Isogenic knock-in ERBB2 mutations in ER+ MCF7 cells and xenografts were used to investigate estrogen-independent growth. Structural analysis was used to determine the molecular interaction of HER L755S with HER3. Small molecules and siRNAs were used to inhibit PI3K?, TORC1, and HER3. RESULTS:Genomic data revealed a higher rate of ERBB2 mutations in metastatic versus primary ER+ tumors. MCF7 cells with isogenically incorporated ERBB2 kinase domain mutations exhibited resistance to estrogen deprivation and to fulvestrant both in vitro and in vivo, despite maintaining inhibition of ER? transcriptional activity. Addition of the irreversible HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor neratinib restored sensitivity to fulvestrant. HER2-mutant MCF7 cells expressed higher levels of p-HER3, p-AKT, and p-S6 than cells with wild-type HER2. Structural analysis of the HER2 L755S variant implicated a more flexible active state, potentially allowing for enhanced dimerization with HER3. Treatment with a PI3K? inhibitor, a TORC1 inhibitor or HER3 siRNA, but not a MEK inhibitor, restored sensitivity to fulvestrant and to estrogen deprivation. Inhibition of mutant HER2 or TORC1, when combined with fulvestrant, equipotently inhibited growth of MCF7/ERBB2 V777L xenografts, suggesting a role for TORC1 in antiestrogen resistance induced by ERBB2 mutations. CONCLUSIONS:ERBB2 mutations hyperactivate the HER3/PI3K/AKT/mTOR axis, leading to antiestrogen resistance in ER+ breast cancer. Dual blockade of the HER2 and ER pathways is required for the treatment of ER+/HER2 mutant breast cancers.
Project description:PURPOSE:The phase III ExteNET trial showed improved invasive disease-free survival in patients with HER2+ breast cancer treated with neratinib versus placebo after trastuzumab-based adjuvant therapy. The benefit from neratinib appeared to be greater in patients with ER+/HER2+ tumors. We thus sought to discover mechanisms that may explain the benefit from extended adjuvant therapy with neratinib.Experimental Design: Mice with established ER+/HER2+ MDA-MB-361 tumors were treated with paclitaxel plus trastuzumab ± pertuzumab for 4 weeks, and then randomized to fulvestrant ± neratinib treatment. The benefit from neratinib was evaluated by performing gene expression analysis for 196 ER targets, ER transcriptional reporter assays, and cell-cycle analyses. RESULTS:Mice receiving "extended adjuvant" therapy with fulvestrant/neratinib maintained a complete response, whereas those treated with fulvestrant relapsed rapidly. In three ER+/HER2+ cell lines (MDA-MB-361, BT-474, UACC-893) but not in ER+/HER2- MCF7 cells, treatment with neratinib induced ER reporter transcriptional activity, whereas treatment with fulvestrant resulted in increased HER2 and EGFR phosphorylation, suggesting compensatory reciprocal crosstalk between the ER and ERBB RTK pathways. ER transcriptional reporter assays, gene expression, and immunoblot analyses showed that treatment with neratinib/fulvestrant, but not fulvestrant, potently inhibited growth and downregulated ER reporter activity, P-AKT, P-ERK, and cyclin D1 levels. Finally, similar to neratinib, genetic and pharmacologic inactivation of cyclin D1 enhanced fulvestrant action against ER+/HER2+ breast cancer cells. CONCLUSIONS:These data suggest that ER blockade leads to reactivation of ERBB RTKs and thus extended ERBB blockade is necessary to achieve durable clinical outcomes in patients with ER+/HER2+ breast cancer.
Project description:The effectiveness of therapies targeting specific pathways in breast cancer, such as the estrogen receptor or HER2, is limited because many tumors manifest resistance, either de novo or acquired, during the course of treatment. To investigate molecular mechanisms of resistance, we used two xenograft models of estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, one with and one without HER2 overexpression (MCF7/HER2-18 and MCF7 wt, respectively). Mice with established tumors were assigned to the following treatment groups: estrogen supplementation (E2), estrogen deprivation (ED), ED plus tamoxifen (Tam), all with or without the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor gefitinib (G). Another group received ED plus the antiestrogen fulvestrant (MCF7 wt only). Tumors with acquired or de novo resistance to these endocrine therapies were profiled for gene expression and compared with tumors in the E2 control group. One class of genes underexpressed in endocrine-resistant tumors (relative to E2-treated tumors) were estrogen inducible in vitro and associated with ER+ human breast cancers (luminal subtype). Another class of genes overexpressed in tumors with acquired resistance in both models represented transcriptional targets of HER2 signaling and was associated with ER-/HER2+ human cancers (ERBB2+ subtype). A third class of genes overexpressed in MCF7/HER2-18 tumors exhibiting de novo resistance to tamoxifen was associated with ER+ human cancers but not with estrogen-regulated genes. Thus, in response to various endocrine therapy regimens, these xenograft breast tumors shut down classic estrogen signaling and activate alternative pathways such as HER2 that contribute to treatment resistance. Over time, the molecular phenotype of breast cancer can change.
Project description:Tamoxifen is the most commonly prescribed therapy for patients with estrogen receptor (ER)?-positive breast tumors. Tumor resistance to tamoxifen remains a serious clinical problem especially in patients with tumors that also overexpress human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Current preclinical models of HER2 overexpression fail to recapitulate the clinical spectrum of endocrine resistance associated with HER2/ER-positive tumors. Here, we show that ectopic expression of a clinically important oncogenic isoform of HER2, HER2?16, which is expressed in >30% of ER-positive breast tumors, promotes tamoxifen resistance and estrogen independence of MCF-7 xenografts. MCF-7/HER2?16 cells evade tamoxifen through upregulation of BCL-2, whereas mediated suppression of BCL-2 expression or treatment of MCF-7/HER2?16 cells with the BCL-2 family pharmacological inhibitor ABT-737 restores tamoxifen sensitivity. Tamoxifen-resistant MCF-7/HER2?16 cells upregulate BCL-2 protein levels in response to suppressed ER? signaling mediated by estrogen withdrawal, tamoxifen treatment or fulvestrant treatment. In addition, HER2?16 expression results in suppression of BCL-2-targeting microRNAs miR-15a and miR-16. Reintroduction of miR-15a/16 reduced tamoxifen-induced BCL-2 expression and sensitized MCF-7/HER2?16 to tamoxifen. Conversely, inhibition of miR-15a/16 in tamoxifen-sensitive cells activated BCL-2 expression and promoted tamoxifen resistance. Our results suggest that HER2?16 expression promotes endocrine-resistant HER2/ER?-positive breast tumors and in contrast to wild-type HER2, preclinical models of HER2?16 overexpression recapitulate multiple phenotypes of endocrine-resistant human breast tumors. The mechanism of HER2?16 therapeutic evasion, involving tamoxifen-induced upregulation of BCL-2 and suppression of miR-15a/16, provides a template for unique therapeutic interventions combining tamoxifen with modulation of microRNAs and/or ABT-737-mediated BCL-2 inhibition and apoptosis.
Project description:The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-targeted therapies trastuzumab (T) and lapatinib (L) show high efficacy in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, but resistance is prevalent. Here we investigate resistance mechanisms to each drug alone, or to their combination using a large panel of HER2-positive cell lines made resistant to these drugs.Response to L + T treatment was characterized in a panel of 13 HER2-positive cell lines to identify lines that were de novo resistant. Acquired resistant lines were then established by long-term exposure to increasing drug concentrations. Levels and activity of HER2 and estrogen receptor (ER) pathways were determined by qRT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and immunoblotting assays. Cell growth, proliferation, and apoptosis in parental cells and resistant derivatives were assessed in response to inhibition of HER or ER pathways, either pharmacologically (L, T, L + T, or fulvestrant) or by using siRNAs. Efficacy of combined endocrine and anti-HER2 therapies was studied in vivo using UACC-812 xenografts.ER or its downstream products increased in four out of the five ER+/HER2+ lines, and was evident in one of the two intrinsically resistant lines. In UACC-812 and BT474 parental and resistant derivatives, HER2 inhibition by T reactivated HER network activity to promote resistance. T-resistant lines remained sensitive to HER2 inhibition by either L or HER2 siRNA. With more complete HER2 blockade, resistance to L-containing regimens required the activation of a redundant survival pathway, ER, which was up-regulated and promoted survival via various Bcl2 family members. These L- and L + T-resistant lines were responsive to fulvestrant and to ER siRNA. However, after prolonged treatment with L, but not L + T, BT474 cells switched from depending on ER as a survival pathway, to relying again on the HER network (increased HER2, HER3, and receptor ligands) to overcome L's effects. The combination of endocrine and L + T HER2-targeted therapies achieved complete tumor regression and prevented development of resistance in UACC-812 xenografts.Combined L + T treatment provides a more complete and stable inhibition of the HER network. With sustained HER2 inhibition, ER functions as a key escape/survival pathway in ER-positive/HER2-positive cells. Complete blockade of the HER network, together with ER inhibition, may provide optimal therapy in selected patients.
Project description:Tamoxifen provided a successful treatment for ER-positive breast cancer for many years. However, HER2 overexpressing breast cancer cells respond poorly to tamoxifen therapy presumably by pass. The molecular mechanisms underlying development of tamoxifen resistance have not been well established. Recently, we reported that breast cancer cells with high levels of ER-?36, a variant of ER-?, were resistant to tamoxifen and knockdown of ER-?36 expression in tamoxifen resistant cells with the shRNA method restored tamoxifen sensitivity, indicating that gained ER-?36 expression is one of the underlying mechanisms of tamoxifen resistance. Here, we found that tamoxifen induced expression of ER-?36-EGFR/HER2 positive regulatory loops and tamoxifen resistant MCF7 cells (MCF7/TAM) expressed enhanced levels of the loops. Disruption of the ER-?36-EGFR/HER2 positive regulatory loops with the dual tyrosine kinase inhibitor Lapatinib or ER-?36 down-regulator Broussoflavonol B in tamoxifen resistant MCF7 cells restored tamoxifen sensitivity. In addition, we also found both Lapatinib and Broussoflavonol B increased the growth inhibitory activity of tamoxifen in tumorsphere cells derived from MCF7/TAM cells. Our results thus demonstrated that elevated expression of the ER-?36-EGFR/HER2 loops is one of the mechanisms by which ER-positive breast cancer cells escape tamoxifen therapy. Our results thus provided a rational to develop novel therapeutic approaches for tamoxifen resistant patients by targeting the ER-?36-EGFR/HER2 loops.
Project description:Definition of cell cycle control proteins that modify tumor cell resistance to estrogen (E2) signaling antagonists could inform clinical choice for estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer (BC) therapy. Cyclin G2 (CycG2) is upregulated during cell cycle arrest responses to cellular stresses and growth inhibitory signals and its gene, CCNG2, is directly repressed by E2-bound ER complexes. Our previous studies showed that blockade of HER2, PI3K and mTOR signaling upregulates CycG2 expression in HER2+ BC cells, and that CycG2 overexpression induces cell cycle arrest. Moreover, insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptor signaling strongly represses CycG2. Here we show that blockade of ER-signaling in MCF7 and T47D BC cell lines enhances the expression and nuclear localization of CycG2. Knockdown of CycG2 attenuated the cell cycle arrest response of E2-depleted and fulvestrant treated MCF7 cells. These muted responses were accompanied by sustained inhibitory phosphorylation of retinoblastoma (RB) protein, expression of cyclin D1, phospho-activation of ERK1/2 and MEK1/2 and expression of cRaf. Our work indicates that CycG2 can form complexes with CDK10, a CDK linked to modulation of RAF/MEK/MAPK signaling and tamoxifen resistance. We determined that metformin upregulates CycG2 and potentiates fulvestrant-induced CycG2 expression and cell cycle arrest. CycG2 knockdown blunts the enhanced anti-proliferative effect of metformin on fulvestrant treated cells. Meta-analysis of BC tumor microarrays indicates that CCNG2 expression is low in aggressive, poor-prognosis BC and that high CCNG2 expression correlates with longer periods of patient survival. Together these findings indicate that CycG2 contributes to signaling networks that limit BC.
Project description:Activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT/mTOR pathway has been implicated in anti-estrogen resistance in breast cancer. We tested the therapeutic potential of the novel PI3K/mTOR dual inhibitor P7170 in a panel of anti-estrogen-sensitive and anti-estrogen-resistant models of ER+ breast cancer. Estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cells were treated ±P7170. Fresh cores from primary ER+/HER2- tumors from two patients were treated ±P7170 ex vivo. Mice bearing breast cancer xenografts were randomized to treatment with vehicle, fulvestrant, P7170, or combinations, and tumor volumes were measured. Tissues and cells were analyzed for markers of pathway activity, cell viability, and apoptosis. In cell lines, P7170 exhibited IC50 values in the range of 0.9-7 nM and induced apoptosis. P7170 potently inhibited mTOR activity (? 25 nM) and inhibited PI3K at higher concentrations (? 200 nM). P7170 completely inhibited MCF-7 tumor growth, significantly inhibited growth of fulvestrant-resistant T47D tumors, and suppressed tumor cell proliferation but did not induce apoptosis. While P7170 inhibits PI3K and mTOR in ER+/HER2- human breast cancer cells and tumors ex vivo, in vivo data indicate that the primary mechanism of P7170 anti-tumor action is inhibition of mTOR and cell proliferation. P7170 is a novel agent worthy of further investigation for the treatment of ER+ breast cancer.
Project description:Bidirectional cross talk between members of the human epidermal growth factor family of receptors (HER) and the estrogen receptor (ER) is believed to underlie resistance mechanisms that develop in response to treatment with anti-HER agents and endocrine therapy. We investigated the interaction between HER2, HER3 and the ER in vitro using human embryonic kidney cells transfected with human HER2, HER3, and ER?. We also investigated the additive efficacy of combination regimens consisting of anti-HER3 (lumretuzumab), anti-HER2 (pertuzumab), and endocrine (fulvestrant) therapy in vivo. Our data show that both HER2 and HER3 can directly complex with the ER and can mediate phosphorylation of the ER. Phosphorylation of the ER was only observed in cells that expressed both HER2 and ER? or in heregulin-stimulated cells that expressed both HER3 and ER?. Using a mouse xenograft model of ER+/HER2-low (HER2 immunohistochemistry 1+ or 2+ without gene amplification) human breast cancer we show that the combination of lumretuzumab and pertuzumab is highly efficacious and induces long-lasting tumor regression in vivo and adding endocrine therapy (fulvestrant) to this combination further improved efficacy. In addition, a prolonged clinical response was observed with the combination of lumretuzumab and pertuzumab in a patient with ER+/HER2-low breast cancer who had failed endocrine therapy. These preclinical data confirm that direct cross talk exists between HER2/HER3 and ER which may explain the resistance mechanisms to endocrine therapy and monoclonal antibodies that target HER2 and HER3. Our data also indicate that the triplet of anti-HER2, anti-HER3, and endocrine therapy might be an efficacious combination for treating patients with ER+/HER2-low breast cancer, which is an area of significant unmet medical need.