The TRAIL to targeted therapy of breast cancer

Adv Cancer Res. 2009;103:43-73. doi: 10.1016/S0065-230X(09)03003-6.


Breast cancers can be classified into those which express the estrogen (ER) and progesterone (PR) receptors, those with HER-2 amplification, and those without expression of ER, PR, or amplified HER-2 (referred to as triple-negative or basal-like breast cancer). Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) activates apoptosis upon binding to its receptors in many tumor types and the ligand and agonist antibodies are currently being studied in patients in clinical phases I and II trials. Cell line studies suggest that many breast cancer cell lines are very resistant to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. However, recent data suggest that a subset of triple-negative/basal-like breast cancer cells is sensitive to TRAIL as a single agent. In addition, many studies have demonstrated that resistance to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in breast cancer cells can be overcome by combinations of TRAIL with chemotherapy, radiation, and various targeted agents. This chapter will discuss the current understanding of the mechanisms, which control TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in breast cancer cells. The preclinical data supporting the use of TRAIL ligands and agonistic antibodies alone and in combination in breast cancer will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / agonists
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / physiology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / agonists
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / physiology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFSF10 protein, human