Activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NFkappaB) identifies a high-risk subset of hormone-dependent breast cancers

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2005 May;37(5):1130-44. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2004.09.006.


Activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NFkappaB) has been linked to the development of hormone-independent, estrogen receptor (ER)-negative human breast cancers. To explore the possibility that activated NFkappaB marks a subset of clinically more aggressive ER-positive breast cancers, NFkappaB DNA-binding was measured in ER-positive breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer extracts by electrophoretic mobility shift assay and ELISA-based quantification of specific NFkappaB p50 and p65 DNA-binding subunits. Oxidant (menadione 100 microMx30 min) activation of NFkappaB was prevented by pretreatment with various NFkappaB inhibitors, including the specific IkappaB kinase (IKK) inhibitor, parthenolide (PA), which was found to sensitize MCF-7/HER2 and BT474 but not MCF-7 cells to the antiestrogen tamoxifen. Early stage primary breast cancers selected a priori for lower ER content (21-87 fmol/mg; n=59) and known clinical outcome showed two- to four-fold increased p50 and p65 NFkappaB DNA-binding over a second set of primary breast cancers with higher ER content (>100 fmol/mg; n=22). Breast cancers destined to relapse (13/59) showed significantly higher NFkappaB p50 (but not p65) DNA-binding over those not destined to relapse (46/59; p=0.04). NFkappaB p50 DNA-binding correlated positively with several prognostic biomarkers; however, only NFkappaB p50 DNA-binding (p=0.04), Activator Protein-1 DNA-binding (AP-1; p<or=0.01) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator expression (uPA; p=0.0014) showed significant associations with metastatic relapse and disease-free patient survival. These clinical findings indicate that high-risk ER-positive breast cancers may be prognostically identified by increased NFkappaB p50 DNA-binding, and support preclinical models suggesting that therapeutic inhibition of NFkappaB activation may improve the endocrine responsiveness of high-risk ER-positive breast cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / classification
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / etiology
  • Protein Precursors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Vitamin K 3 / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • NF-kappa B
  • NF-kappa B p50 Subunit
  • Protein Precursors
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Vitamin K 3