Targeting DNA Replication Before It Starts: Cdc7 as a Therapeutic Target in p53-mutant Breast Cancers

Am J Pathol. 2010 Oct;177(4):2034-45. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.100421. Epub 2010 Aug 19.


Treatment options for triple-receptor negative (ER-/PR-/Her2-) and Her2-overexpressing (ER-/PR-/Her2+) breast cancers with acquired or de novo resistance are limited, and metastatic disease remains incurable. Targeting of growth signaling networks is often constrained by pathway redundancy or growth-independent cancer cell cycles. The cell-cycle protein Cdc7 regulates S phase by promoting DNA replication. This essential kinase acts as a convergence point for upstream growth signaling pathways and is therefore an attractive therapeutic target. We show that increased Cdc7 expression during mammary tumorigenesis is linked to Her2-overexpressing and triple-negative subtypes, accelerated cell cycle progression (P < 0.001), arrested tumor differentiation (P < 0.001), genomic instability (P = 0.019), increasing NPI score (P < 0.001), and reduced disease-free survival (HR = 1.98 [95% CI: 1.27-3.10]; P = 0.003), thus implicating its deregulation in the development of aggressive disease. Targeting Cdc7 with RNAi, we demonstrate that p53-mutant Her2-overexpressing and triple-negative breast cancer cell lines undergo an abortive S phase and apoptotic cell death due to loss of a p53-dependent Cdc7-inhibition checkpoint. In contrast, untransformed breast epithelial cells arrest in G1, remain viable, and are able to resume cell proliferation on recovery of Cdc7 kinase activity. Thus, Cdc7 appears to represent a potent and highly specific anticancer target in Her2-overexpressing and triple-negative breast cancers. Emerging Cdc7 kinase inhibitors may therefore significantly broaden the therapeutic armamentarium for treatment of the aggressive p53-mutant breast cancer subtypes identified in this study.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • DNA Replication*
  • Female
  • Genes, p53 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / genetics
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / genetics
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • S Phase / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • CDC7 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases