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1.  Inhibition of MCL-1 enhances lapatinib toxicity and overcomes lapatinib resistance via BAK-dependent autophagy 
Cancer biology & therapy  2009;8(21):2084-2096.
Prior studies demonstrated that resistance to the ERBB1/2 inhibitor Lapatinib in HCT116 cells was mediated by increased MCL-1 expression. We examined whether inhibition of BCL-2 family function could restore Lapatinib toxicity in Lapatinib adapted tumor cells and enhance Lapatinib toxicity in naive cells. The BCL-2 family antagonist Obatoclax (GX15-070), that inhibits BCL-2/BCL-Xl/MCL-1 function, enhanced Lapatinib toxicity in parental HCT116 and Lapatinib adapted HCT116 cells. In breast cancer lines, regardless of elevated ERBB1/2 expression, GX15-070 enhanced Lapatinib toxicity within 3–12 h.The promotion of Lapatinib toxicity neither correlated with cleavage of caspase 3 nor was blocked by inhibition caspases; and was not associated with changes in the activities of ERK1/2, JNK1/2 or p38 MAPK but with reduced AKT, mTOR and S6K1 phosphorylation. The promotion of Lapatinib toxicity by GX15-070 correlated with increased cytosolic levels of apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) and expression of ATG8 (LC3), and the formation of large vesicles that intensely stained for a transfected LC3-GFP construct. Knockdown of the autophagy regulatory proteins ATG5 or Beclin1 suppressed the induction of LC3-GFP vesicularization and significantly reduced cell killing, whereas knock down of MCL-1 and BCL-Xl enhanced the induction of LC3-GFP vesicularization and significantly enhanced cell killing. Knockdown of Beclin1 and AIF abolished cell killing. Collectively, our data demonstrate that Obatoclax mediated inhibition of MCL-1 rapidly enhances Lapatinib toxicity in tumor cells via a toxic form of autophagy and via AIF release from the mitochondrion.
PMCID: PMC3887451  PMID: 19823038
lapatinib; obatoclax; autophagy; cell death; resistance
2.  Inhibition of MCL-1 in breast cancer cells promotes cell death in vitro and in vivo 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2010;10(9):903-917.
The present studies have examined approaches to suppress MCL-1 function in breast cancer cells, as a means to promote tumor cell death. Treatment of breast cancer cells with CDK inhibitors (flavopiridol; roscovitine) enhanced the lethality of the ERBB1 inhibitor lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. CDK inhibitors interacted with lapatinib to reduce MCL-1 expression and overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed drug combination lethality. Lapatinib-mediated inhibition of ERK1/2 and to a lesser extent AKT facilitated CDK inhibitor-induced suppression of MCL-1 levels. Treatment of cells with the BH3 domain/MCL-1 inhibitor obatoclax enhanced the lethality of lapatinib in a synergistic fashion. Knock out of MCL-1 and BCL-XL enhanced lapatinib toxicity to a similar extent as obatoclax and suppressed the ability of obatoclax to promote lapatinib lethality. Pre-treatment of cells with lapatinib or with obatoclax enhanced basal levels of BAX and BAK activity and further enhanced drug combination toxicity. In vivo tumor growth data in xenograft and syngeneic model systems confirmed our in vitro findings. Treatment of cells with CDK inhibitors enhanced the lethality of obatoclax in a synergistic fashion. Overexpression of MCL-1 or knock down of BAX and BAK suppressed the toxic interaction between CDK inhibitors and obatoclax. Obatoclax and lapatinib treatment or obatoclax and CDK inhibitor treatment or lapatinib and CDK inhibitor treatment radiosensitized breast cancer cells. Lapatinib and obatoclax interacted to suppress mammary tumor growth in vivo. Collectively our data demonstrate that manipulation of MCL-1 protein expression by CDK inhibition or inhibition of MCL-1 sequestering function by Obatoclax renders breast cancer cells more susceptible to BAX/BAK-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and tumor cell death.
PMCID: PMC3040858  PMID: 20855960
MCL-1; Lapatinib; Obatoclax; Flavopiridol; Roscovitine; CDK inhibitor; RTK inhibitor; BCL-2 inhibitor; BAK
3.  OSU-03012 interacts with lapatinib to kill brain cancer cells 
Cancer Biology & Therapy  2012;13(14):1501-1511.
We have further defined mechanism(s) by which the drug OSU-03012 (OSU) kills brain cancer cells. OSU toxicity was enhanced by the HSP90 inhibitor 17-N-Allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17AAG) that correlated with reduced expression of ERBB1 and ERBB2. Inhibition of the extrinsic apoptosis pathway blocked the interaction between 17AAG and OSU. OSU toxicity was enhanced by the inhibitor of ERBB1/2/4, lapatinib. Knock down of ERBB1/2/4 in a cell line specific fashion promoted OSU toxicity. Combined exposure of cells to lapatinib and OSU resulted in reduced AKT and ERK1/2 activity; expression of activated forms of AKT and to a lesser extent MEK1 protected cells from the lethal effects of the drug combination. Knock down of PTEN suppressed, and expression of PTEN enhanced, the lethal interaction between OSU and lapatinib. Downstream of PTEN, inhibition of mTOR recapitulated the effects of lapatinib. Knock down of CD95, NOXA, PUMA, BIK or AIF, suppressed lapatinib and OSU toxicity. Knock down of MCL-1 enhanced, and overexpression of MCL-1 suppressed, drug combination lethality. Lapatinib and OSU interacted in vivo to suppress the growth of established tumors. Collectively our data argue that the inhibition of ERBB receptor function represents a useful way to enhance OSU lethality in brain tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC3542242  PMID: 22990204
glioblastoma; medulloblastoma; lapatinib; OSU-03012; apoptosis; autophagy; ERBB1; PTEN
4.  OSU-03012 sensitizes breast cancers to lapatinib-induced cell killing: a role for Nck1 but not Nck2 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:256.
Lapatinib is characterized as an ErbB1/ErbB2 dual inhibitor and has recently been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. In this study, we examined mechanisms associated with enhancing the activity of lapatinib via combination with other therapies.
In the present studies, estrogen receptor (ER) positive and ER negative breast cancer cells were genetically manipulated to up- or downregulate eIF2-alpha, its phospho-mutant, Nck1, or Nck2, then treated with OSU-03012, lapatinib or the combination and assayed for cytotoxicity/cytostaticity using clonogenic assays.
Treatment of breast cancer cell lines with lapatinib and OSU-03012 (a small molecule derivative of the Cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib) induced synergistic cytotoxic/cytostatic effects. This combination therapy corresponded to an increase in the phosphorylation of eIF2-α at serine51 and a decrease in Nck1 expression. Ectopic expression of phospho-mutant eIF2-α (Ser51Ala) or downregulation of eIF2-α in addition to downregulation of the eIF2-α kinase PERK inhibited the synergistic and cytotoxic effects. Furthermore, ectopic expression of Nck1, but not Nck2 abolished the decrease in cell viability observed in combination-treated cells. Downregulation of Nck1 failed to “rescue” the ablation of the cytotoxic/cytostatic effects by the phospho-mutant of eIF2-α (Ser51Ala) demonstrating that Nck1 downregulation is upstream of eIF2-α phosphorylation in the anti-survival pathway activated by lapatinib and OSU-03012 treatment. Finally, co-immunoprecipitation assays indicated that eIF2-α dissociates from the Nck1/PP1 complex after OSU-03012 and lapatinib co-treatment.
These data indicate that OSU-03012 and lapatinib co-treatment is an effective combination therapy, which functions to enhance cell killing through the Nck1/eIF2 complex. Hence, this complex is a novel target for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3674920  PMID: 23706161
Breast cancer; Lapatinib; Combination therapy; Nck; eIF2-alpha
5.  Src and CXCR4 are involved in the invasiveness of breast cancer cells with acquired resistance to lapatinib 
Cell Cycle  2013;13(1):148-156.
Lapatinib is a dual EGFR and ErbB-2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor that has significantly improved the clinical outcome of ErbB-2-overexpressing breast cancer patients. However, patients inexorably develop mechanisms of resistance that limit the efficacy of the drug. In order to identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention in lapatinib-resistant patients, we isolated, from ErbB-2-overexpressing SK-Br-3 breast cancer cells, the SK-Br-3 Lap-R-resistant subclone, which is able to routinely grow in 1 µM lapatinib. Resistant cells have a more aggressive phenotype compared with parental cells, as they show a higher ability to invade through a matrigel-coated membrane. Lapatinib-resistant cells have an increased Src kinase activity and persistent levels of activation of ERK1/2 and AKT compared with parental cells. Treatment with the Src inhibitor saracatinib in combination with lapatinib reduces AKT and ERK1/2 phosphorylation and restores the sensitivity of resistant cells to lapatinib. SK-Br-3 Lap-R cells also show levels of expression of CXCR4 that are higher compared with parental cells and are not affected by Src inhibition. Treatment with saracatinib or a specific CXCR4 antibody reduces the invasive ability of SK-Br-3 Lap-R cells, with the two drugs showing cooperative effects. Finally, blockade of Src signaling significantly increases TRAIL-induced cell death in SK-Br-3 Lap-R cells. Taken together, our results demonstrate that breast cancer cells with acquired resistance to lapatinib have a more aggressive phenotype compared with their parental counterpart, and that Src signaling and CXCR4 play an important role in this phenomenon, thus representing potential targets for therapeutic intervention in lapatinib-resistant breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3925726  PMID: 24200972
ErbB-2; breast cancer; lapatinib; resistance; Src kinase; saracatinib; CXCR4
6.  An heregulin-EGFR-HER3 autocrine signaling axis can mediate acquired lapatinib resistance in HER2+ breast cancer models 
The human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) oncogene is an attractive therapeutic target for the treatment of HER2-addicted tumors. Although lapatinib, an FDA-approved small-molecule HER2 and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), represents a significant therapeutic advancement in the treatment of HER2+ breast cancers, responses to lapatinib have not been durable. Consequently, elucidation of mechanisms of acquired therapeutic resistance to HER-directed therapies is of critical importance.
Using a functional protein-pathway activation mapping strategy, along with targeted genomic knockdowns applied to a series of isogenic-matched pairs of lapatinib-sensitive and resistant cell lines, we now report an unexpected mechanism of acquired resistance to lapatinib and similar TKIs.
The signaling analysis revealed that whereas HER2 was appropriately inhibited in lapatinib-resistant cells, EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation was incompletely inhibited. Using a targeted molecular knockdown approach to interrogate the causal molecular underpinnings of EGFR-persistent activation, we found that lapatinib-resistant cells were no longer oncogene addicted to HER2-HER3-PI3K signaling, as seen in the parental lapatinib-sensitive cell lines, but instead were dependent on a heregulin (HRG)-driven HER3-EGFR-PI3K-PDK1 signaling axis. Two FDA-approved EGFR TKIs could not overcome HRG-HER3-mediated activation of EGFR, or reverse lapatinib resistance. The ability to overcome EGFR-mediated acquired therapeutic resistance to lapatinib was demonstrated through molecular knockdown of EGFR and treatment with the irreversible pan-HER TKI neratinib, which blocked HRG-dependent phosphorylation of HER3 and EGFR, resulting in apoptosis of resistant cells. In addition, whereas HRG reversed lapatinib-mediated antitumor effects in parental HER2+ breast cancer cells, neratinib was comparatively resistant to the effects of HRG in parental cells. Finally, we showed that HRG expression is an independent negative predictor of clinical outcome in HER2+ breast cancers, providing potential clinical relevance to our findings.
Molecular analysis of acquired therapeutic resistance to lapatinib identified a new resistance mechanism based on incomplete and "leaky" inhibition of EGFR by lapatinib. The selective pressure applied by incomplete inhibition of the EGFR drug target resulted in selection of ligand-driven feedback that sustained EGFR activation in the face of constant exposure to the drug. Inadequate target inhibition driven by a ligand-mediated autocrine feedback loop may represent a broader mechanism of therapeutic resistance to HER TKIs and suggests adopting a different strategy for selecting more effective TKIs to advance into the clinic.
PMCID: PMC3978995  PMID: 24044505
7.  Modulation of ErbB2 Blockade in ErbB2-Positive Cancers: The Role of ErbB2 Mutations and PHLDA1 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106349.
We set out to study the key effectors of resistance and sensitivity to ErbB2 tyrosine kinase inhibitors, such as lapatinib in ErbB2-positive breast and lung cancers. A cell-based in vitro site-directed mutagenesis lapatinib resistance model identified several mutations, including the gatekeeper ErbB2 mutation ErbB2-T798I, as mediating resistance. ErbB2-T798I engineered cell models indeed show resistance to lapatinib but remain sensitive to the irreversible EGFR/ErbB2 inhibitor, PD168393, suggestive of potential alternative treatment strategies to overcome resistance. Gene expression profiling studies identified a select group of downstream targets regulated by ErbB2 signaling and define PHLDA1 as an immediately downregulated gene upon oncogenic ErbB2 signaling inhibition. We find significant down-regulation of PHLDA1 in primary breast cancer and PHLDA1 is statistically significantly less expressed in ErbB2 negative compared with ErbB2 positive tumors consistent with its regulation by ErbB2. Lastly, PHLDA1 overexpression blocks AKT signaling, inhibits cell growth and enhances lapatinib sensitivity further supporting an important negative growth regulator function. Our findings suggest that PHLDA1 might have key inhibitory functions in ErbB2 driven lung and breast cancer cells and a better understanding of its functions might point at novel therapeutic options. In summary, our studies define novel ways of modulating sensitivity and resistance to ErbB2 inhibition in ErbB2-dependent cancers.
PMCID: PMC4169529  PMID: 25238247
8.  Truncated ErbB2 expressed in tumor cell nuclei contributes to acquired therapeutic resistance to ErbB2 kinase inhibitors 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2011;10(8):10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-10-0991.
ErbB2 tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) block tyrosine autophosphorylation and activation of the full-length transmembrane ErbB2 receptor (p185ErbB2). In addition to p185ErbB2 truncated forms of ErbB2 exist in breast cancer cell lines and clinical tumors. The contribution of these truncated forms, specifically those expressed in tumor cell nuclei, to the development of therapeutic resistance to ErbB2 TKIs has not been previously demonstrated. Here we show that expression of a 95 kDa tyrosine phosphorylated form of ErbB2, herein referred to as p95L (lapatinib-induced p95) was increased in ErbB2+ breast cancer cells treated with potent ErbB2 TKIs (lapatinib, GW2974). Expressed in tumor cell nuclei, tyrosine phosphorylation of p95L was resistant to inhibition by ErbB2 TKIs. Furthermore, the expression of p95L was increased in ErbB2+ breast cancer models of acquired therapeutic resistance to lapatinib that mimic the clinical setting. Pretreatment with proteasome inhibitors blocked p95L induction in response to ErbB2 TKIs, implicating the role of the proteasome in the regulation of p95L expression. In addition, tyrosine phosphorylated c-terminal fragments of ErbB2, generated by alternate initiation of translation and similar in molecular weight to p95L, were expressed in tumor cell nuclei, where they too were resistant to inhibition by ErbB2 TKIs. When expressed in the nuclei of lapatinib sensitive ErbB2+ breast cancer cells, truncated ErbB2 rendered cells resistant to lapatinib-induced apoptosis. Elucidating the function of nuclear truncated forms of ErbB2, and developing therapeutic strategies to block their expression and/or activation, may enhance the clinical efficacy of ErbB2 TKIs.
PMCID: PMC3836594  PMID: 21673090
Truncated; nuclear; ErbB2; resistance; tyrosine kinase inhibitors
9.  Enhanced PI3K p110α signaling confers acquired lapatinib resistance which can be effectively reversed by a p110α-selective PI3K inhibitor 
Molecular cancer therapeutics  2013;13(1):60-70.
While the HER2-targeting agents trastuzumab and lapatinib have improved the survival of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, resistance to these targeted therapies is a major challenge. To investigate mechanisms of acquired lapatinib resistance, we generated acquired lapatinib resistance cell models by extended exposure of two HER2-positive breast cancer cell lines to lapatinib. Genomic and proteomic analyses revealed that lapatinib-resistant breast cancer cells gained additional PI3K activation through activating mutation in PI3K p110α and/or increasing protein expression of existing mutant p110α. p110α protein up-regulation in lapatinib-resistant cells occurred through gene amplification or post-transcriptional upregulation. Knockdown of p110α, but not p110β, the other PI3K catalytic subunit present in epithelial cells, inhibited proliferation of lapatinib-resistant cells, especially when combined with lapatinib. Lapatinib-resistant xenograft growth was inhibited persistently by combination treatment with the p110α-selective PI3K inhibitor BYL719 and lapatinib; the drug combination was also well-tolerated in mice. Mechanistically, the combination of lapatinib plus BYL719 more effectively inhibited Akt phosphorylation and, surprisingly, Erk phosphorylation, than either drug alone in the resistance model. These findings indicate that lapatinib resistance can occur through p110α protein upregulation-mediated, and/or mutation-induced, PI3K activation. Moreover, a combinatorial targeted therapy, lapatinib plus BYL719, effectively overcame lapatinib resistance in vivo and could be further tested in clinical trials. Finally, our findings indicate that p110β may be dispensable for lapatinib resistance in some cases. This allows the usage of p110α-specific PI3K inhibitors and thus may spare patients the toxicities of pan-PI3K inhibition to allow maximal dosage and efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3902650  PMID: 24249715
10.  Lapatinib (Tykerb, GW572016) Reverses Multidrug Resistance in Cancer Cells by Inhibiting the Activity of ATP-Binding Cassette Subfamily B Member 1 and G Member 2 
Cancer research  2008;68(19):7905-7914.
Lapatinib is active at the ATP-binding site of tyrosine kinases that are associated with the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR, Her-1, or ErbB1) and Her-2. It is conceivable that lapatinib may inhibit the function of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters by binding to their ATP-binding sites. The aim of this study was to investigate the ability of lapatinib to reverse tumor multidrug resistance (MDR) due to overexpression of ABCB1 and ABCG2 transporters. Our results showed that lapatinib significantly enhanced the sensitivity to ABCB1 or ABCG2 substrates in cells expressing these transporters although a small synergetic effect was observed in combining lapatinib and conventional chemotherapeutic agents in parental sensitive MCF-7 or S1 cells. Lapatinib alone, however, did not significantly alter the sensitivity of non-ABCB1 or non-ABCG2 substrates in sensitive and resistant cells. Additionally, lapatinib significantly increased the accumulation of doxorubicin or mitoxantrone in ABCB1 or ABCG2 overexpressing cells and inhibited the transport of methotrexate and E217βG by ABCG2. Furthermore, lapatinib stimulated the ATPase activity of both ABCB1 and ABCG2 and inhibited the photolabeling of ABCB1 or ABCG2 with [125I]Iodoarylazidoprazosin in a concentration-dependent manner. However, lapatinib did not affect the expression of these transporters at mRNA or protein levels. Importantly, lapatinib also strongly enhanced the effect of paclitaxel on the inhibition of growth of the ABCB1-overexpressing KBv200 cell xenografts in nude mice. Overall, we conclude that lapatinib reverses ABCB1- and ABCG2-mediated MDR by directly inhibiting their transport function. These findings may be useful for cancer combinational therapy with lapatinib in the clinic.
PMCID: PMC2652245  PMID: 18829547
multidrug resistance; ABCB1/P-gp; ABCG2/BCRP/MXR; EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor; lapatinib
11.  Radiation- and anthracycline-induced cardiac toxicity and the influence of ErbB2 blocking agents 
In Her2-positive breast cancer patients, inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (ErbB2)-signaling is often combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The risk of cardiac toxicity after anthracyclines and radiotherapy is recognized, but little is known about increased risk when these treatments are combined with ErbB2 inhibition. This study investigated whether ErbB2 inhibition increased radiation or anthracycline-induced toxicity. In an in vitro study, human cardiomyocytes were treated with irradiation or doxorubicin, alone or in combination with trastuzumab, and evaluated for cell survival and growth. Groups of mice received 0 or 14 Gy to the heart, alone or in combination with lapatinib, or 3 × 4 mg/kg doxorubicin alone or in combination with lapatinib. Mice were evaluated 40 weeks after treatment for cardiac damage. Changes in cardiac function (99mTc-Myoview gated SPECT) were related to histomorphology and microvascular damage. Radiation or doxorubicin-induced cardiomyocyte toxicity (in vitro) were not exacerbated by trastuzumab. Cardiac irradiation of mice decreased microvascular density (MVD) and increased endothelial damage in surviving capillaries (decrease alkaline phosphatase expression and increased von Willebrand factor), but these changes were not exacerbated by lapatinib. Inflammatory responses in the irradiated epicardium (CD45+ and F4/80+ cells) were significantly reduced in combination with lapatinib. Irradiation, doxorubicin, and lapatinib each induced cardiac fibrosis but this was not further enhanced when treatments were combined. At the ultra-structural level, both lapatinib and doxorubicin induced mitochondrial damage, which was enhanced in combined treatments. Lapatinib alone also induced mild changes in cardiac function but this was not enhanced in the combined treatments. Trastuzumab did not enhance direct radiation or anthracycline toxicity of cardiomyocytes in vitro. Lapatinib did not enhance the risk of radiation or anthracycline-induced cardiac toxicity in mice up to 40 weeks after treatment, but mitochondrial damage was more severe after doxorubicin combined with lapatinib.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10549-013-2707-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3824562  PMID: 24091769
ErbB2; Cardiac microvasculature; Irradiation; Anthracyclines
12.  Src Mutation Induces Acquired Lapatinib Resistance in ERBB2-Amplified Human Gastroesophageal Adenocarcinoma Models 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109440.
ERBB2-directed therapy is now a routine component of therapy for ERBB2-amplified metastatic gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas. However, there is little knowledge of the mechanisms by which these tumors develop acquired resistance to ERBB2 inhibition. To investigate this question we sought to characterize cell line models of ERBB2-amplified gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma with acquired resistance to ERBB2 inhibition. We generated lapatinib-resistant (LR) subclones from an initially lapatinib-sensitive ERBB2-amplified esophageal adenocarcinoma cell line, OE19. We subsequently performed genomic characterization and functional analyses of resistant subclones with acquired lapatinib resistance. We identified a novel, acquired SrcE527K mutation in a subset of LR OE19 subclones. Cells with this mutant allele harbour increased Src phosphorylation. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of Src resensitized these subclones to lapatinib. Biochemically, Src mutations could activate both the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and mitogen activated protein kinase pathways in the lapatinib-treated LR OE19 cells. Ectopic expression of Src E527K mutation also was sufficient to induce lapatinib resistance in drug-naïve cells. These results indicate that pathologic activation of Src is a potential mechanism of acquired resistance to ERBB2 inhibition in ERBB2-amplified gastroesophageal cancer. Although Src mutation has not been described in primary tumor samples, we propose that the Src hyperactivation should be investigated in the settings of acquired resistance to ERBB2 inhibition in esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC4211679  PMID: 25350844
13.  Prediction of signaling cross-talks contributing to acquired drug resistance in breast cancer cells by Bayesian statistical modeling 
Initial success of inhibitors targeting oncogenes is often followed by tumor relapse due to acquired resistance. In addition to mutations in targeted oncogenes, signaling cross-talks among pathways play a vital role in such drug inefficacy. These include activation of compensatory pathways and altered activities of key effectors in other cell survival and growth-associated pathways.
We propose a computational framework using Bayesian modeling to systematically characterize potential cross-talks among breast cancer signaling pathways. We employed a fully Bayesian approach known as the p1-model to infer posterior probabilities of gene-pairs in networks derived from the gene expression datasets of ErbB2-positive breast cancer cell-lines (parental, lapatinib-sensitive cell-line SKBR3 and the lapatinib-resistant cell-line SKBR3-R, derived from SKBR3). Using this computational framework, we searched for cross-talks between EGFR/ErbB and other signaling pathways from Reactome, KEGG and WikiPathway databases that contribute to lapatinib resistance. We identified 104, 188 and 299 gene-pairs as putative drug-resistant cross-talks, respectively, each comprised of a gene in the EGFR/ErbB signaling pathway and a gene from another signaling pathway, that appear to be interacting in resistant cells but not in parental cells. In 168 of these (distinct) gene-pairs, both of the interacting partners are up-regulated in resistant conditions relative to parental conditions. These gene-pairs are prime candidates for novel cross-talks contributing to lapatinib resistance. They associate EGFR/ErbB signaling with six other signaling pathways: Notch, Wnt, GPCR, hedgehog, insulin receptor/IGF1R and TGF- β receptor signaling. We conducted a literature survey to validate these cross-talks, and found evidence supporting a role for many of them in contributing to drug resistance. We also analyzed an independent study of lapatinib resistance in the BT474 breast cancer cell-line and found the same signaling pathways making cross-talks with the EGFR/ErbB signaling pathway as in the primary dataset.
Our results indicate that the activation of compensatory pathways can potentially cause up-regulation of EGFR/ErbB pathway genes (counteracting the inhibiting effect of lapatinib) via signaling cross-talk. Thus, the up-regulated members of these compensatory pathways along with the members of the EGFR/ErbB signaling pathway are interesting as potential targets for designing novel anti-cancer therapeutics.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12918-014-0135-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4307189  PMID: 25599599
Drug resisance; Signaling cross-talk; Bayesian statistical modeling; p1-model; EGFR signaling; Breast cancer; Lapatinib
14.  BCAR4 induces antioestrogen resistance but sensitises breast cancer to lapatinib 
British Journal of Cancer  2012;107(6):947-955.
High BCAR4 and ERBB2 mRNA levels in primary breast cancer associate with tamoxifen resistance and poor patient outcome. We determined whether BCAR4 expression sensitises breast cancer cells to lapatinib, and identifies a subgroup of patients who possibly may benefit from ERBB2-targeted therapies despite having tumours with low ERBB2 expression.
Proliferation assays were applied to determine the effect of BCAR4 expression on lapatinib treatment. Changes in cell signalling were quantified with reverse-phase protein microarrays. Quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) of ERBB2 and BCAR4 was performed in 1418 primary breast cancers. Combined BCAR4 and ERBB2 mRNA levels were evaluated for association with progression-free survival (PFS) in 293 oestrogen receptor-α (ER)-positive patients receiving tamoxifen as first-line monotherapy for recurrent disease.
BCAR4 expression strongly sensitised ZR-75-1 and MCF7 breast cancer cells to the combination of lapatinib and antioestrogens. Lapatinib interfered with phosphorylation of ERBB2 and its downstream mediators AKT, FAK, SHC, STAT5, and STAT6. Reverse transcriptase–PCR analysis showed that 27.6% of the breast cancers were positive for BCAR4 and 22% expressed also low levels of ERBB2. The clinical significance of combining BCAR4 and ERBB2 mRNA status was underscored by the finding that the group of patients having BCAR4-positive/ERBB2-low-expressing cancers had a shorter PFS on tamoxifen treatment than the BCAR4-negative group.
This study shows that BCAR4 expression identifies a subgroup of ER-positive breast cancer patients without overexpression of ERBB2 who have a poor outcome and might benefit from combined ERBB2-targeted and antioestrogen therapy.
PMCID: PMC3464772  PMID: 22892392
BCAR4; ERBB2; targeted therapy; breast cancer; tamoxifen resistance
15.  MEK inhibition increases lapatinib sensitivity via modulation of FOXM1 
Current medicinal chemistry  2013;20(19):2486-2499.
The standard targeted therapy for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer is the HER2 monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab. Although effective, many patients eventually develop trastuzumab resistance. The dual EGFR/HER2 small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib is approved for use in trastuzumab-refractory metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. However, lapatinib resistance is a problem as most patients with trastuzumab-refractory disease do not benefit from lapatinib. Understanding the mechanisms underlying lapatinib resistance may ultimately facilitate development of new therapeutic strategies for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. Our current results indicate that MEK inhibition increases lapatinib-mediated cytotoxicity in resistant HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. We genetically and pharmacologically blocked MEK/ERK signaling and evaluated lapatinib response by trypan blue exclusion, anchorage-independent growth assays, flow cytometric cell cycle and apoptosis analysis, and in tumor xenografts. Combined MEK inhibition and lapatinib treatment reduced phosphorylated ERK more than single agent treatment. In addition, Western blots, immunofluorescence, and immunohistochemistry demonstrated that the combination of MEK inhibitor plus lapatinib reduced nuclear expression of the MEK/ERK downstream proto-oncogene FOXM1. Genetic knockdown of MEK was tested for the ability to increase lapatinib-mediated cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in JIMT-1 and MDA361 cells. Finally, xenograft studies demonstrated that combined pharmacological inhibition of MEK plus lapatinib suppressed tumor growth and reduced expression of FOXM1 in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers that are resistant to trastuzumab and lapatinib. Our results suggest that FoxM1 contributes to lapatinib resistance downstream of MEK signaling, and supports further study of pharmacological MEK inhibition to improve response to lapatinib in HER2-overexpressing trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3650616  PMID: 23531216
lapatinib; HER2; erbB2; breast cancer; resistance; MEK
16.  Heparanase mediates a novel mechanism in lapatinib-resistant brain metastatic breast cancer12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2015;17(1):101-113.
Heparanase (HPSE) is the dominant mammalian endoglycosidase and important tumorigenic, angiogenic, and pro-metastatic molecule. Highest levels of HPSE activity have been consistently detected in cells possessing highest propensities to colonize the brain, emphasizing the therapeutic potential for targeting HPSE in brain metastatic breast cancer (BMBC). Lapatinib (Tykerb) is a small-molecule and dual inhibitor of human epidermal growth factor receptor1 and 2 (EGFR and HER2, respectively) which are both high-risk predictors of BMBC. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of patients with advanced or metastatic breast cancer. However, its role is limited in BMBC whose response rates to lapatinib are significantly lower than those for extracranial metastasis. Because HPSE can affect EGFR phosphorylation, we examined Roneparstat, a non-anticoagulant heparin with potent anti-HPSE activity, to inhibit EGFR signaling pathways and BMBC onset using lapatinib-resistant clones generated from HER2-transfected, EGFR-expressing MDA-MB-231BR cells. Cell growth, EGFR pathways, and HPSE targets were assessed among selected clones in the absence or presence of Roneparstat and/or lapatinib. Roneparstat overcame lapatinib resistance by inhibiting pathways associated with EGFR tyrosine residues that are not targeted by lapatinib. Roneparstat inhibited the growth and BMBC abilities of lapatinib-resistant clones. A molecular mechanism was identified by which HPSE mediates an alternative survival pathway in lapatinib-resistant clones and is modulated by Roneparstat. These results demonstrate that the inhibition of HPSE-mediated signaling plays important roles in lapatinib resistance, and provide mechanistic insights to validate the use of Roneparstat for novel BMBC therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC4309682  PMID: 25622903
ANOVA, analysis of variance; BR, HER2-transfected MDA-MB-231BR; BMBC, brain metastatic breast cancer; COX-2, cyclooxygenase-2; DME/F-12, Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s/F-12 medium; ERK, extracellular signal-regulated kinase; EGFR, human epidermal growth factor receptor1; FACS, fluorescence activated cell sorting; FAK, focal adhesion kinase; FBS, fetal bovine serum; HER2, human epidermal growth factor receptor2; HPSE, heparanase; HS, heparan sulfate; Ls/Lr BR clones, lapatinib-sensitive/lapatinib-resistant BR clones; MAPK, mitogen-activated protein kinase; MMP-9, matrix metalloprotease-9; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; PI3K, phosphoinositide 3-kinase; STR, short tandem repeat.
17.  Gene expression changes as markers of early lapatinib response in a panel of breast cancer cell lines 
Molecular Cancer  2012;11:41.
Lapatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor of HER2 and EGFR and is approved, in combination with capecitabine, for the treatment of trastuzumab-refractory metastatic breast cancer. In order to establish a possible gene expression response to lapatinib, a panel of breast cancer cell lines with varying sensitivity to lapatinib were analysed using a combination of microarray and qPCR profiling.
Co-inertia analysis (CIA), a data integration technique, was used to identify transcription factors associated with the lapatinib response on a previously published dataset of 96 microarrays. RNA was extracted from BT474, SKBR3, EFM192A, HCC1954, MDAMB453 and MDAMB231 breast cancer cell lines displaying a range of lapatinib sensitivities and HER2 expression treated with 1 μM of lapatinib for 12 hours and quantified using Taqman RT-PCR. A fold change ≥ ± 2 was considered significant.
A list of 421 differentially-expressed genes and 8 transcription factors (TFs) whose potential regulatory impact was inferred in silico, were identified as associated with lapatinib response. From this group, a panel of 27 genes (including the 8 TFs) were selected for qPCR validation. 5 genes were determined to be significantly differentially expressed following the 12 hr treatment of 1 μM lapatinib across all six cell lines. Furthermore, the expression of 4 of these genes (RB1CC1, FOXO3A, NR3C1 and ERBB3) was directly correlated with the degree of sensitivity of the cell line to lapatinib and their expression was observed to “switch” from up-regulated to down-regulated when the cell lines were arranged in a lapatinib-sensitive to insensitive order. These included the novel lapatinib response-associated genes RB1CC1 and NR3C1. Additionally, Cyclin D1 (CCND1), a common regulator of the other four proteins, was also demonstrated to observe a proportional response to lapatinib exposure.
A panel of 5 genes were determined to be differentially expressed in response to lapatinib at the 12 hour time point examined. The expression of these 5 genes correlated directly with lapatinib sensitivity. We propose that the gene expression profile may represent both an early measure of the likelihood of sensitivity and the level of response to lapatinib and may therefore have application in early response detection.
PMCID: PMC3439312  PMID: 22709873
Co-inertia analysis; Microarray; Lapatinib response; Breast cancer
18.  Treatment of Vestibular Schwannoma Cells with ErbB Inhibitors 
Aberrant phosphorylation of ErbB family receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) in human vestibular schwannomas (VS) renders them susceptible to growth suppression by RTK inhibitors.
Recent evidence has implicated increased ErbB family receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in VS tumorigenesis; however, the characterization of ErbB receptor activity and the chemotherapeutic potential of RTK inhibitors in VS treatment have not been fully explored.
To confirm phosphorylation of ErbB receptors in VS, protein extracts from paired VS tumor-vestibular nerve samples were examined using phospho-RTK arrays. ErbB receptor phosphorylation was similarly examined in cultured schwannoma cells, normal Schwann cells, and VS tumor tissues by Western blotting. Also, VS tumor sections were immunostained for members of the ErbB receptor family. The effects of RTK inhibitors on ErbB phosphorylation and cell proliferation were assessed in schwannoma cells following EGFR inhibitor (Erlotinib) and EGFR/ErbB2 inhibitor (Lapatinib) treatment.
VS tumor tissues consistently demonstrated higher levels of phosphorylated ErbB3 compared with paired vestibular nerves. However, cultured VS, malignant schwannoma, and normal Schwann cells demonstrated EGFR phosphorylation. Immunohistochemistry confirmed high expression of ErbB3 in a series of VS tumor sections. Erlotinib inhibited schwannoma cell proliferation with an IC50 value of 2.5 micromolar, while Lapatinib was less potent for growth inhibition. Erlotinib treatment resulted in a decrease of multiple phospho-ErbB receptors in schwannoma cells.
VS variably express activated ErbB receptors with consistently higher levels of phospho-ErbB3 expression relative to paired vestibular nerve samples. Chemotherapeutic targeting of ErbB3 may be a novel means of inhibiting VS growth.
PMCID: PMC3522123  PMID: 22222570
Vestibular schwannoma; NF2; EGFR; ErbB2; ErbB3; ErbB4; receptor tyrosine kinase; Erlotinib; Lapatinib
19.  ErbB1/2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor mediates oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in inflammatory breast cancer cells 
Overexpression of epidermal growth factor receptors (ErbB) is frequently seen in inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Treatment with ErbB1/2-targeting agents (lapatinib) mediates tumor apoptosis by downregulating ErbB1/2 phosphorylation and downstream survival signaling. In this study, using carboxy-H2DCFDA, DHE, and MitoSOX Red to examine changes in hydrogen peroxide radicals, cytoplasmic and mitochondrial superoxide, respectively, we observed that GW583340 (a lapatinib-analog) increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) in two models of IBC (SUM149, SUM190) that are sensitive to ErbB1/2 blockade. This significant increase in ROS levels was similar to those generated by classical oxidative agents H2O2 and paraquat. In contrast, minimal to basal levels of ROS were measured in a clonal population of GW583340-resistant IBC cells (rSUM149 and rSUM190). The GW583340-resistant IBC cells displayed increased SOD1, SOD2, and glutathione expression, which correlated with decreased sensitivity to the apoptotic-inducing effects of GW583340, H2O2, and paraquat. The ROS increase and cell death in the GW583340-sensitive cells was reversed by simultaneous treatment with a superoxide dismutase (SOD) mimic. Additionally, overcoming the high levels of antioxidants using redox modulators induced apoptosis in the GW583340-resistant cells. Taken together, these data demonstrate a novel mechanism of lapatinib-analog-induced apoptosis and indicate that resistant cells have increased antioxidant potential, which can be overcome by treatment with SOD modulators.
PMCID: PMC3734382  PMID: 21559822
Reactive oxygen species; SUM149; SUM190; IBC; XIAP; Lapatinib; Superoxide; SOD; Antioxidants; Therapeutic resistance; Redox modulators; Caspases
20.  Human breast cancer cells harboring a gatekeeper T798M mutation in HER2 overexpress EGFR ligands and are sensitive to dual inhibition of EGFR and HER2 
Mutations in receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) genes can confer resistance to receptor-targeted therapies. A T798M mutation in the HER2 oncogene has been shown to confer resistance to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lapatinib. We studied the mechanisms of HER2-T798M-induced resistance to identify potential strategies to overcome that resistance.
Experimental Design
HER2-T798M was stably expressed in BT474 and MCF10A cells. Mutant cells and xenografts were evaluated for effects of the mutation on proliferation, signaling, and tumor growth after treatment with combinations of inhibitors targeting the EGFR-HER2-HER3-PI3K axis.
A low 3% allelic frequency of the T798M mutant shifted10-fold the IC50 of lapatinib. In mutant-expressing cells, lapatinib did not block basal phosphorylation of HER2, HER3, AKT and ERK1/2. In vitro kinase assays showed increased autocatalytic activity of HER2-T798M. HER3 association with PI3K p85 was increased in mutant-expressing cells. BT474-T798M cells were also resistant to the HER2 antibody trastuzumab. These cells were sensitive to the pan-PI3K inhibitors BKM120 and XL147 and the irreversible HER2/EGFR TKI afatinib but not the MEK1/2 inhibitor CI-1040, suggesting continued dependence of the mutant cells on ErbB receptors and downstream PI3K signaling. BT474-T798M cells showed increased expression of the EGFR ligands EGF, TGFα, amphiregulin and HB-EGF. Addition of the EGFR neutralizing antibody cetuximab or lapatinib restored trastuzumab sensitivity of BT474-T798M cells and xenografts, suggesting increased EGFR ligand production was causally associated with drug resistance.
Simultaneous blockade of HER2 and EGFR should be an effective treatment strategy against HER2 gene-amplified breast cancer cells harboring T798M mutant alleles.
PMCID: PMC3809918  PMID: 23948973
HER2; kinase domain mutations; EGFR; lapatinib; trastuzumab; cetuximab; breast cancer
21.  Differential Sensitivity of ERBB2 Kinase Domain Mutations towards Lapatinib 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26760.
Overexpression of the ERBB2 kinase is observed in about one-third of breast cancer patients and the dual ERBB1/ERBB2 kinase inhibitor lapatinib was recently approved for the treatment of advanced ERBB2-positive breast cancer. Mutations in the ERBB2 receptor have recently been reported in breast cancer at diagnosis and also in gastric, colorectal and lung cancer. These mutations may have an impact on the clinical responses achieved with lapatinib in breast cancer and may also have a potential impact on the use of lapatinib in other solid cancers. However, the sensitivity of lapatinib towards clinically observed ERBB2 mutations is not known.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We cloned a panel of 8 clinically observed ERBB2 mutations, established stable cell lines and characterized their sensitivity towards lapatinib and alternative ERBB2 inhibitors. Both lapatinib-sensitive and lapatinib-resistant ERBB2 mutations were observed. Interestingly, we were able to generate lapatinib resistance mutations in wt-ERBB2 cells incubated with lapatinib for prolonged periods of time. This indicates that these resistance mutations may also cause secondary resistance in lapatinib-treated patients. Lapatinib-resistant ERBB2 mutations were found to be highly resistant towards AEE788 treatment but remained sensitive towards the dual irreversible inhibitors CL-387785 and WZ-4002.
Patients harbouring certain ERBB2 kinase domain mutations at diagnosis may not benefit from lapatinib treatment. Moreover, secondary lapatinib resistance may develop due to kinase domain mutations. Irreversible ERBB2 inhibitors may offer alternative treatment options for breast cancer and other solid tumor patients harbouring lapatinib resistance mutations. In addition, these inhibitors may be of interest in the scenario of secondary lapatinib resistance.
PMCID: PMC3203921  PMID: 22046346
22.  Mechanism of Activation and Inhibition of the HER4/ErbB4 Kinase 
HER4/ErbB4 is a ubiquitously expressed member of the EGF/ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases that is essential for normal development of the heart, nervous system, and mammary gland. We report here crystal structures of the ErbB4 kinase domain in active and lapatinib-inhibited forms. Active ErbB4 kinase adopts an asymmetric dimer conformation essentially identical to that observed to be important for activation of the EGF receptor/ErbB1 kinase. Mutagenesis studies of intact ErbB4 in BaF3 cells confirm the importance of this asymmetric dimer for activation of intact ErbB4. Lapatinib binds to an inactive form of the ErbB4 kinase in a mode equivalent to its interaction with the EGF receptor. All ErbB4 residues contacted by lapatinib are conserved in the EGF receptor and HER2/ErbB2, which lapatinib also targets. These results demonstrate that key elements of kinase activation and inhibition are conserved among ErbB family members.
PMCID: PMC2858219  PMID: 18334220
23.  Mechanism of Lapatinib-Mediated Radiosensitization of Breast Cancer Cells is Primarily by Inhibition of the Raf>MEK>ERK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Cascade and Radiosensitization of Lapatinib-Resistant Cells Restored by Direct Inhibition of MEK 
Background and purpose
We recently showed that lapatinib, an EGFR/HER2 inhibitor, radiosensitized breast cancer cells of the basal and HER2+ subtypes. The purpose of this study was to identify the downstream signaling pathways responsible for lapatinib-mediated radiosensitization in breast cancer.
Materials and methods
Response of EGFR downstream signaling pathways were assessed by western blot and clonogenic cell survival assays in breast tumor cells after irradiation (5 Gy), lapatinib, CI-1040, or combined treatment.
In SUM102 cells, an EGFR+ basal breast cancer cell line, exposure to ionizing radiation elicited strong activation of ERK1/2 and JNK, which was blocked by lapatinib, and weak/no activation of p38, AKT or STAT3. Direct inhibition of MEK1 with CI-1040 resulted in 95% inhibition of surviving colonies when combined with radiation while inhibition of JNK with SP600125 had no effect. Lapatinib-mediated radiosensitization of SUM102 cells was completely abrogated with expression of constitutively active Raf. Treatment of lapatinib-resistant SUM185 cells with CI-1040 restored radiosensitization with 45% fewer surviving colonies when combined with radiation.
These data suggest that radiosensitization by lapatinib is mediated largely through inhibition of MEK/ERK and that direct inhibition of this pathway may provide an additional avenue of radiosensitization in EGFR+ or HER2+ breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC2799330  PMID: 19853943
EGFR; lapatinib; CI-1040; MEK/ERK; resistance; breast cancer
24.  HER3 Is Required for HER2-Induced Preneoplastic Changes to the Breast Epithelium and Tumor Formation 
Cancer research  2012;72(10):2672-2682.
Increasing evidence suggests that HER2-amplified breast cancer cells use HER3/ErbB3 to drive therapeutic resistance to HER2 inhibitors. However, the role of ErbB3 in the earliest events of breast epithelial transformation remains unknown. Using mouse mammary specific models of Cre-mediated ErbB3 ablation, we show that ErbB3 loss prevents the progressive transformation of HER2-overexpressing mammary epithelium. Decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis were seen in MMTV-HER2 and MMTV-Neu mammary glands lacking ErbB3, thus inhibiting premalignant HER2-induced hyperplasia. Using a transgenic model in which HER2 and Cre are expressed from a single polycistronic transcript, we showed that palpable tumor penetrance decreased from 93.3% to 6.7% upon ErbB3 ablation. Penetrance of ductal carcinomas in situ was also decreased. In addition, loss of ErbB3 impaired Akt and p44/42 phosphorylation in preneoplastic HER2-overexpressing mammary glands and in tumors, decreased growth of preexisting HER2-overexpressing tumors, and improved tumor response to the HER2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib. These events were rescued by reexpression of ErbB3, but were only partially rescued by ErbB36F, an ErbB3 mutant harboring six tyrosine-to-phenylalanine mutations that block its interaction with phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase. Taken together, our findings suggest that ErbB3 promotes HER2-induced changes in the breast epithelium before, during, and after tumor formation. These results may have important translational implications for the treatment and prevention of HER2-amplified breast tumors through ErbB3 inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3693553  PMID: 22461506
25.  Effect of Lapatinib on the Development of Estrogen Receptor–Negative Mammary Tumors in Mice 
Lapatinib, a selective orally available inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB2 receptor tyrosine kinases, is a promising agent for the treatment of breast cancer. We examined the effect of lapatinib on the development of mammary tumors in MMTV-erbB2 transgenic mice, which express wild-type ErbB2 under the control of the mouse mammary tumor virus promoter and spontaneously develop estrogen receptor (ER)–negative and ErbB2-positive mammary tumors by 14 months of age. Mice were treated from age 3 months to age 15 months with vehicle (n = 17) or lapatinib (30 or 75 mg/kg body weight; n = 16 mice per group) by oral gavage twice daily (6 d/wk). All statistical tests were two-sided. By 328 days after the start of treatment, all 17 (100%) of the vehicle-treated mice vs five (31%) of the 16 mice treated with high-dose lapatinib developed mammary tumors (P < .001). Among MMTV-erbB2 mice treated for 5 months (n = 20 mice per group), those treated with lapatinib had fewer premalignant lesions and noninvasive cancers in their mammary glands than those treated with vehicle (P = .02). Lapatinib also effectively blocked epidermal growth factor–induced signaling through the EGFR and ErbB2 receptors, suppressed cyclin D1 and epiregulin mRNA expression, and stimulated p27 mRNA expression in human mammary epithelial cells and in mammary epithelial cells from mice treated for 5 months with high-dose lapatinib. Thus, cyclin D1, epiregulin, and p27 may represent useful biomarkers of lapatinib response in patients. These data suggest that lapatinib is a promising agent for the prevention of ER-negative breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2639315  PMID: 19141783

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