Loss of tumor-initiating cell activity in cyclophosphamide-treated breast xenografts

Transl Oncol. 2010 Jun 1;3(3):149-52. doi: 10.1593/tlo.09307.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of tumor cells with preferential tumor-initiating capacity and have been purported to be resistant to chemotherapy. It has been shown that breast CSC are, on average, enriched in patient tumors after combination neoadjuvant chemotherapy including docetaxel, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide (CPA). Here, we investigate the resistance of breast CSC to CPA alone in a xenograft model. CPA treatment led to a 48% reduction in tumor volume during a 2-week period. Cells bearing the CD44(+) CD24(-) phenotype were reduced by 90% (2.5% to 0.24%) in CPA-treated tumors, whereas cells with aldehyde dehydrogenase activity were reduced by 64% (4.7% to 1.7%). A subsequent functional analysis showed that CPA-treated tumors were impaired in their ability to form tumors, indicating loss of functional tumor-initiating activity. These results are consistent with a CSC phenotype that is sensitive to CPA and indicate that some patient CSC may not display the expected resistance to therapy. Deciphering the mechanism for this difference may lead to therapies to counteract resistance.