Purpose: Brain metastases of breast cancer contribute significantly to patient morbidity and mortality. We have tested pazopanib, a recently approved antiangiogenic drug that targets VEGFR1, VEGFR2, VEGFR3, PDGFRβ, PDGFRα, and c-kit, for prevention of experimental brain metastases and mechanism of action.
Experimental design: In vitro assays included B-Raf enzymatic assays, Western blots, and angiogenesis assays. For in vivo assays, HER2 transfectants of the brain seeking sublines of MDA-MB-231 cells (231-BR-HER2) and MCF7 cells (MCF7-HER2-BR3, derived herein) were injected into the left cardiac ventricle of mice and treated with vehicle or pazopanib beginning on day 3 postinjection. Brain metastases were counted histologically, imaged, and immunostained.
Results: Treatment with 100 mg/kg of pazopanib resulted in a 73% decline in large 231-BR-HER2 metastases (P < 0.0001) and a 39% decline in micrometastases (P = 0.004). In vitro, pazopanib was directly antiproliferative to 231-BR-HER2 breast cancer cells and inhibited MEK and ERK activation in vitro despite B-Raf and Ras mutations. Enzymatic assays demonstrated that pazopanib directly inhibited the wild type and exon 11 oncogenic mutant, but not the V600E mutant forms of B-Raf. Activation of the B-Raf targets pERK1/2 and pMEK1/2 was decreased in pazopanib-treated brain metastases whereas blood vessel density was unaltered. In the MCF7-HER2-BR3 experimental brain metastasis model, pazopanib reduced overall brain metastasis volume upon magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by 55% (P = 0.067), without affecting brain metastasis vascular density.
Conclusions: The data identify a new activity for pazopanib directly on tumor cells as a pan-Raf inhibitor and suggest its potential for prevention of brain metastatic colonization of HER2(+) breast cancer.