Targeting of substance P induces cancer cell death and decreases the steady state of EGFR and Her2

J Cell Physiol. 2012 Apr;227(4):1358-66. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22848.


NK1 is a tachykinin receptor highly relevant to tumorigenesis and metastasis development in breast cancer and other carcinomas. Despite the substantial efforts done to develop potent NK1 receptor antagonists, none of these antagonists had shown good antitumor activity in clinical trials. Now, we have tested the effect of inhibition of the neuropeptide Substance P (SP), a NK1 ligand, as a potential therapeutic approach in cancer. We found that the inhibition of SP with antibodies strongly inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in breast, colon, and prostate cancer cell lines. These effects were accompained by a decrease in the mitogen-activated kinase singaling pathway. Interestingly, in some cell lines SP abrogation decreased the steady state of Her2 and EGFR, suggesting that SP-mediated signaling is important for the basal activity of these ErbB receptors. In consequence, we observed a blockade of the cell cycle progression and the inhibition of several cell cycle-related proteins including mTOR. SP inhibition also induced cell death in cell lines resistant to Lapatinib and Trastuzumab that have increased levels of active Her2, suggesting that this therapeutic approach could be also effective for those cancers resistant to current anti-ErbB therapies. Thus, we propose a new therapeutic strategy for those cancers that express NK1 receptor and/or other tachykinin receptors, based in the immuno-blockade of the neuropeptide SP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lapatinib
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Substance P / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Substance P / immunology
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ligands
  • Neurokinin-1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Piperidines
  • Quinazolines
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1
  • Lapatinib
  • 3-((3,5-bis(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)methyloxy)-2-phenylpiperidine
  • Substance P
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab