DOI: 10.1152/ajpcell.00199.2023 ISSN:

Resistance to hormone therapy in breast cancer cells promotes autophagy and EGFR signaling pathway

Konstantinos E Siatis, Efstathia Giannopoulou, Dimitra Manou, Panagiotis Sarantis, Michalis V Karamouzis, Sofia Raftopoulou, Konstantinos Fasseas, Fatimah Mohammed Alzahrani, Haralabos P Kalofonos, Achilleas D. Theocharis
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women worldwide. Endocrine therapies represent the cornerstone for hormone-dependent breast cancer treatment. However, in many cases, endocrine resistance is induced with poor prognosis for patients. In the current study, we have developed MCF-7 cell lines resistant to Fulvestrant (MCF-7Fulv) and Tamoxifen (MCF-7Tam) aiming at investigating mechanisms underlying resistance. Both resistant cell lines exerted lower proliferation capacity in 2D cultures but retain ERα expression and proliferate independent of the presence of estrogens. The established cell lines tend to be more aggressive exhibiting advanced capacity to form colonies, increased expression of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), and heterodimerization of ERBB family receptors and activation of EGFR downstream pathways like MEK/ERK1/2 and PI3K/AKT. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors tested against resistant MCF-7Fulv and MCF-7Tam cells, showed moderate efficacy to inhibit cell proliferation except for lapatinib, which concomitantly inhibits both EGFR and HER2 receptors, and strongly reduced cell proliferation. Furthermore, increased autophagy was observed in resistant MCF-7Fulv and MCF-7Tam cells as shown by the presence of autophagosomes and increased Beclin-1 levels. The increased autophagy in resistant cells is not associated with increased apoptosis suggesting a cytoprotective role for autophagy that may favor cells' survival and aggressiveness. Thus, by exploiting those underlying mechanisms, new targets could be established to overcome endocrine resistance.

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