Introduction: Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) is constitutively tyrosine-phosphorylated in approximately 50% of primary breast carcinomas. A number of different mechanisms responsible for Stat3 activation, including abnormal activation of receptor tyrosine kinases, Src, and Janus kinases (Jaks), have been implicated in breast cancer.
Methods: We examined six breast cancer-derived cell lines expressing high or low levels of tyrosine-phosphorylated Stat3 (pStat3) as well as primary breast cancer specimens.
Results: Inhibition of Src or EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) tyrosine kinases had no effect on pStat3 levels, whereas pan-Jak inhibitor P6 resulted in complete abrogation of Stat3 phosphorylation and inhibition of growth. Jaks are required for cytokine signaling, and the glycoprotein 130 (gp130) receptor-associated Jaks are known mediators of Stat3 phosphorylation. Blockade of the gp130 receptor or sequestration of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) ligand led to a decrease of pStat3 levels. Conditioned media from those cell lines expressing high levels of pStat3 contained IL-6 and were capable of stimulating Stat3 phosphorylation. We examined IL-6 levels in primary breast tumors and found a positive correlation between pStat3 and IL-6 expression.
Conclusion: In summary, a principal mechanism of Stat3 activation in breast cancer is through the IL-6/gp130/Jak pathway.