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Cytoplasmic levels of cFLIP determine a broad susceptibility of breast cancer stem/progenitor-like cells to TRAIL

French, Rhiannon, Hayward, Olivia, Jones, Samuel, Yang, William and Clarkson, Richard ORCID: 2015. Cytoplasmic levels of cFLIP determine a broad susceptibility of breast cancer stem/progenitor-like cells to TRAIL. Molecular Cancer 14 , 209. 10.1186/s12943-015-0478-y

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Background The clinical application of TRAIL receptor agonists as a novel cancer therapy has been tempered by heterogeneity in tumour responses. This is illustrated in breast cancer, where TRAIL is cytotoxic in cell lines of mesenchymal origin but refractory in lines with an epithelial-like phenotype. However, it is now evident that intra-tumour heterogeneity includes a minority subpopulation of tumour-initiating stem/progenitor-like cells (CSCs) that possess mesenchymal characteristics. We hypothesised therefore that TRAIL may target these phenotypically distinct CSC-like cells that are common to most - if not all - breast cancers, thus impacting on the source of malignancy in a much broader range of breast tumour subtypes than previously envisaged. Methods We used colony formation, tumoursphere, flow cytometry and xenograft tumour initiation assays to observe the TRAIL sensitivity of CSC-like cells in a panel of two mesenchymal-like (TRAIL-sensitive) and four epithelial-like (TRAIL-resistant) breast cancer cell lines. Subcellular levels of the endogenous TRAIL inhibitor, cFLIP, were determined by western blot and immunofluorescence microscopy. The effect of the subcellular redistribution of cFLIP on TRAIL sensitivity and Wnt signalling was determined using cFLIP localisation mutants and the TOPFlash reporter assay respectively. Results TRAIL universally suppressed the clonal expansion of stem/progenitors in all six of the breast cancer cell lines tested, irrespective of their phenotype or overall sensitivity to TRAIL. A concomitant reduction in tumour initiation was confirmed in the TRAIL-resistant epithelial cell line, MCF-7, following serial dilution xenotransplantation. Furthermore TRAIL sensitivity of breast CSCs was inversely proportional to the relative cytoplasmic levels of cFLIP while overexpression of cFLIP in the cytosol using subcellular localization mutants of cFLIP protected these cells from cytotoxicity. The accumulation of nuclear cFLIP on the other hand did not influence TRAIL cytotoxicity but instead promoted Wnt-dependent signalling. Conclusion These data propose a novel role for TRAIL as a selective CSC agent with a broad specificity for both epithelial and mesenchymal breast tumour subtypes. Furthermore we identify a dual role for cFLIP in the maintenance of breast CSC viability, dependent upon its subcellular distribution.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Pharmacy
European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Breast cancer; Cancer stem cells; TRAIL; cFLIP
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1476-4598
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 3 December 2015
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2023 10:13

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