Interview with Dr. Balraj Singh from the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Balraj Singh from the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, describes a recent research paper he co-authored that was published by Oncotarget, entitled, "Inhibition of resistant triple-negative breast cancer cells with low-dose 6-mercaptopurine and 5-azacitidine."

Highly adaptable breast cancer cells that can opportunistically switch between proliferation and quiescence are often responsible for disease relapse. We have developed a function-based selection strategy for such resistant cells, exemplified by SUM149-MA and FC-IBC02-MA triple-negative breast cancer cells. We have also reported that a lengthy treatment with low-dose 6-mercaptopurine, a clinically useful anti-inflammatory drug, inhibits such resistant cells. To more rigorously test the clinical suitability of 6-mercaptopurine, here we investigated effects of further lowering its dose and the possibility of overcoming resistance to single-drug treatment by combining the drug with another ribonucleoside analog 5-azacitidine. We found that that a lengthy treatment with 1 μM 5-azacitidine, without a significant effect on cell proliferation, sensitized cancer cells to the inhibitory effects of low-dose 6-mercaptopurine. Importantly, treatment for several weeks with low doses of 6-mercaptopurine and/or 5-azacitidine did not render cancer cells resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs doxorubicin or paclitaxel. In fact, the cells became more sensitive to chemotherapeutic drugs upon treatment with 6-mercaptopurine and/or 5-azacitidine. Our analyses of protein markers of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition indicated that treatments with 6-mercaptopurine and/or 5-azacitidine do not significantly reverse this process in our model. Our results showed that safe drugs such as low-dose 6-mercaptopurine singly or combined with 5-azacitidine, which are suitable for use prior to disease relapse, have a potential of inhibiting highly resistant triple-negative breast cancer cells.

DOI - https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27922

Full text - https://www.oncotarget.com/article/27922/text/

Correspondence to - Anthony Lucci - [email protected], and Balraj Singh - [email protected]

Keywords - resistant TNBC, minimal residual disease, intratumor heterogeneity, breast cancer relapse, metastasis prevention

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