Research Papers:

Proteasome inhibitors prevent bi-directional HER2/estrogen-receptor cross-talk leading to cell death in endocrine and lapatinib-resistant HER2+/ER+ breast cancer cells

Sonja Thaler _, Marcus Schmidt, Sven Roßwag, Gitta Thiede, Arno Schad and Jonathan P. Sleeman

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:72281-72301. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.20261

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Sonja Thaler1, Marcus Schmidt2, Sven Roßwag1, Gitta Thiede1, Arno Schad3 and Jonathan P. Sleeman1,4

1Centre for Biomedicine and Medical Technology Mannheim (CBTM), Medical Faculty Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Germany

2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

3Institute of Pathology, University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

4KIT Campus Nord, Institute for Toxicology and Genetics, Karlsruhe, Germany

Correspondence to:

Sonja Thaler, email: [email protected], [email protected]

Keywords: proteasome inhibitors, ER+/HER2+ breast cancer, breast cancer therapy

Received: June 20, 2016     Accepted: August 04, 2017     Published: August 14, 2017


Amplification and/or overexpression of the human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) oncogene occurs in about 13–15% of invasive breast cancer and triggers breast cancer cell proliferation, survival and metastatic progression. Around half of all breast cancers with HER2 overexpression co-express hormone receptors (HR) such as those for estrogen and progesterone. Aberrant signaling through HER2 and other members of the HER-family mediates endocrine-resistance in estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) positive breast cancer. On the other hand, ERα co-expression has been shown to attenuate the efficiency of anti-HER2 therapies. These findings indicate that HER2 and ERα synergize to escape from both anti-ERα and anti-HER2-targeted therapies. Rationally designed clinical trials that combine endocrine therapy with anti-HER2 agents to interfere with HER2/ERα cross-talk have been conducted. However, the outcome of these trials suggests that novel therapeutic approaches are needed to further improve inhibition of HER2 and other HER-family members in conjunction with a more efficient ERα blockade. Here, we demonstrate that carfilzomib and bortezomib stabilize the HER2-specific protein tyrosine phosphatase BDP1 leading to decreased HER2 autophosphorylation, reduced HER2 activity and subsequently attenuated activation of the PI3K/Akt-pathway, together with blockade of ERα expression. We further observed that proteasome inhibitors (PIs) reverse autophosphorylation and thereby inhibit the activity of constitutively active mutant HER2. We also demonstrate that PIs cause cell death in lapatinib and endocrine-resistant HER2+/ER+ breast cancer cells. These findings suggest that PIs might have the potential to improve the management of HER2+/ER+ breast cancer patients by efficiently disrupting the bi-directional HER2/ERα cross-talk.

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