Trastuzumab-Resistant Luminal B Breast Cancer Cells Show Basal-Like Cell Growth Features Through NF-κB-Activation

Hirotaka Kanzaki, Nishit K. Mukhopadhya, Xiaojiang Cui, V. Krishnan Ramanujan, Ramachandran Murali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


A major clinical problem in the treatment of breast cancer is mortality due to metastasis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms associated with metastasis should aid in designing new therapeutic approaches for breast cancer. Trastuzumab is the main therapeutic option for HER2+ breast cancer patients; however, the molecular basis for trastuzumab resistance (TZR) and subsequent metastasis is not known. Earlier, we found expression of basal-like molecular markers in TZR tissues from patients with invasive breast cancer.(1) The basal-like phenotype is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. This observation suggests that TZR might contribute to an aggressive phenotype. To understand if resistance to TZR can lead to basal-like phenotype, we generated a trastuzumab-resistant human breast cancer cell line (BT-474-R) that maintained human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) overexpression and HER2 mediated signaling. Analysis showed that nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) was constitutively activated in the BT-474-R cells, a feature similar to the basal-like tumor phenotype. Pharmacologic inhibition of NF-κB improved sensitivity of BT-474-R cells to trastuzumab. Interestingly, activation of HER2 independent NF-κB is not shown in luminal B breast cancer cells. Our study suggests that by activating the NF-κB pathway, luminal B cells may acquire a HER2+ basal-like phenotype in which NF-κB is constitutively activated; this notion is consistent with the recently proposed "progression through grade" or "evolution of resistance" hypothesis. Furthermore, we identified IKK-α/IKK-β and nuclear accumulation of RelA/p65 as the major determinants in the resistant cells. Thus our study additionally suggests that the nuclear accumulation of p65 may be a useful marker for identifying metastasis-initiating tumor cells and targeting RelA/p65 may limit metastasis of breast and other cancers associated with NF-κB activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalMonoclonal Antibodies in Immunodiagnosis and Immunotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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