Acquired Resistance of ER-Positive Breast Cancer to Endocrine Treatment Confers an Adaptive Sensitivity to TRAIL through Posttranslational Downregulation of c-FLIP

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • External authors:
  • Luke Piggott
  • Andreia Silva
  • Timothy Robinson
  • Michael Becker
  • Iduna Fichtner
  • Ladislav Andera
  • Philippa Young
  • Christine Morris
  • Peter Barrett-Lee
  • Fouad Alchami
  • Marco Piva
  • Maria dM Vivanco
  • Julia Gee
  • Richard Clarkson


Purpose: One third of ER-positive breast cancer patients who initially respond to endocrine therapy become resistant to treatment. Such treatment failure is associated with poor prognosis and remains an area of unmet clinical need. Here, we identify a specific posttranslational modification that occurs during endocrine resistance and which results in tumor susceptibility to the apoptosis-inducer TRAIL. This potentially offers a novel stratified approach to targeting endocrine-resistant breast cancer.Experimental Design: Cell line and primary-derived xenograft models of endocrine resistance were investigated for susceptibility to TRAIL. Tumor viability, cancer stem cell (CSC) viability (tumorspheres), tumor growth kinetics, and metastatic burden were assessed. Western blots for the TRAIL-pathway inhibitor, c-FLIP, and upstream regulators were performed. Results were confirmed in primary culture of 26 endocrine-resistant and endocrine-naïve breast tumors.Results: Breast cancer cell lines with acquired resistance to tamoxifen (TAMR) or faslodex were more sensitive to TRAIL than their endocrine-sensitive controls. Moreover, TRAIL eliminated CSC-like activity in TAMR cells, resulting in prolonged remission of xenografts in vivo In primary culture, TRAIL significantly depleted CSCs in 85% endocrine-resistant, compared with 8% endocrine-naïve, tumors, whereas systemic administration of TRAIL in endocrine-resistant patient-derived xenografts reduced tumor growth, CSC-like activity, and metastases. Acquired TRAIL sensitivity correlated with a reduction in intracellular levels of c-FLIP, and an increase in Jnk-mediated phosphorylation of E3-ligase, ITCH, which degrades c-FLIP.Conclusions: These results identify a novel mechanism of acquired vulnerability to an extrinsic cell death stimulus, in endocrine-resistant breast cancers, which has both therapeutic and prognostic potential. Clin Cancer Res; 24(10); 2452-63. ©2018 AACR.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2452-2463
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number10
Early online date23 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018

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