A kinase inhibitor screen identifies Mcl-1 and Aurora kinase A as novel treatment targets in antiestrogen-resistant breast cancer cells.

PMID 25362855


Antiestrogen resistance is a major problem in breast cancer treatment. Therefore, the search for new therapeutic targets and biomarkers for antiestrogen resistance is crucial. In this study, we performed a kinase inhibitor screen on antiestrogen responsive MCF-7 cells and a panel of MCF-7-derived tamoxifen- and fulvestrant-resistant cell lines. Our focus was to identify common and distinct molecular mechanisms involved in tamoxifen- and fulvestrant-resistant cell growth. We identified 18 inhibitors, of which the majority was common for both tamoxifen- and fulvestrant-resistant cell lines. Two compounds, WP1130 and JNJ-7706621, exhibiting prominent preferential growth inhibition of antiestrogen-resistant cell lines, were selected for further studies. WP1130, a deubiquitinase inhibitor, induced caspase-mediated cell death in both tamoxifen- and fulvestrant-resistant cell lines by destabilization of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1. Mcl-1 expression was found upregulated in the antiestrogen-resistant cell lines and depletion of Mcl-1 in resistant cells caused decreased viability. JNJ-7706621, a dual Aurora kinase and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, specifically inhibited growth and caused G2 phase cell cycle arrest of the tamoxifen-resistant cell lines. Knockdown studies showed that Aurora kinase A is essential for growth of the tamoxifen-resistant cells and inhibition of Aurora kinase A resensitized tamoxifen-resistant cells to tamoxifen treatment. Preferential growth inhibition by WP1130 and JNJ-7706621 was also found in T47D-derived tamoxifen-resistant cell lines, pointing at Mcl-1 and Aurora kinase A as potential treatment targets. In addition, tumor samples from 244 estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen showed that higher expression level of Aurora kinase A was significantly associated with shorter disease-free and overall survival, demonstrating the potential of Aurora kinase A as a biomarker for tamoxifen resistance.

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Fulvestrant, >98% (HPLC)